Not counting Murray State, no OVC team is over .500 on the road, in or out of conference play. You generally expect the home team to win games, but road upsets seem rarer than ever. Again tonight, the 5 home teams earn wins, although they took a lot of different roads to get there.
Due to that, only 2 games separate 3rd from 8th. Although about this time last year, 1.5 games separated 1st from 6th, so this really isn’t anything new.
It’s sets us up for an exciting February, as teams sort themselves out for OVC tournament seeding.
Here’s tonight’s Final Word:
[Tennessee Tech 50, Morehead State 56]
For once, it wasn’t Kevin Murphy. But I doubt that’s going to make him, or his team feel much better. Murphy and Jud Dillard combine for 36 of Tech’s 50 points, but are cold from the charity stripe, and even colder from the 3-point line. The Golden Eagles are also unable to speed up Morehead State, despite 14 Eagles turnovers.
This may be Donnie Tyndall‘s best coaching job yet. Last year, the Eagles actually fell a little below expectations during the season, dropping 5 conference games, although the postseason made up for it. But this year, many people didn’t expect much out of Morehead State before they lost their leading scorer to injury. Drew Kelly puts up another 15 point performance, continuing to impress, and Ty Profitt leads the Eagles again in scoring with a 20 point performance. I’m amazed at how well players have stepped up as of late, and right now I think the Eagles are a team to beat in the OVC right now. With 4 conference losses, it’ll be interesting to see if they can get back to the 2-seed, because they’re playing that well right now. The one note is, like the rest of the OVC, they’ve done most of their damage at home, so it will be interesting to see how they respond on the road these next 2, very winnable games against SIU Edwardsville and Eastern Illinois.
I’ve said it all season, when is somebody else going to step up consistently and help out this guard duo? Zac Swansey‘s production across the board: points, assists, rebounding; all down from last year. Zach Bailey, inconsistent at best, statistics even with last year. It feels like this team peaked last season. They’re still good, they’re just not getting better, and the rest of the league around them is.
[SIU Edwardsville 65, Jacksonville State 76]
The Cougars defense is hardly the benchmark to make this kind of statement on, but if Jacksonville State’s offense continues to play as well as they have as of late, the Gamecocks could sneak their way into a top-4 seed, and surprise a few teams in Nashville. They’ve been very one dimensional this year, but it really seems like they’re becoming more well rounded.
Five Gamecocks finished in double digits, which I’m almost certain is the first time this has happened this year. Jacksonville State’s 76 points is the most they’ve scored since December 28th against Arkansas Pine-Bluff. Again, their last 3 wins have been against less than stellar defenses, (EIU, TTU, SIUE) but there was a point this year where I was wondering if they could score on anyone. Brian Williams led the Gamecocks with 18 points, his 2nd 18 point game and his 4th game over 15 points in his last 6 outings.
I think the OVC has figured out SIU Edwardsville. SIUE actually hits a good percentage from 3-point range, but only took 7 attempts. Jacksonville State has been great all year at taking the 3 away from teams, but we’re seeing more and more that the Cougars just aren’t getting the deep looks they got when they got off to the great OVC start. But the biggest problem, again: turnovers. 19 turnovers, versus just 6 for Jacksonville State. You lose the turnover battle by 5, that’s bad. You lose it by double digits? That’s a loss, almost 100% of the time.
[Eastern Illinois 58, No 11/9 Murray State 73]
I spend a rather large portion of the recap talking about the future of Panthers head coach Mike Miller, which is one of the storylines to watch as the season comes to an end. But as I’m watching SportsCenter right now, I’m reminded of Tom Coughlin, who was marked for dead just weeks ago. There’s still 8 OVC games left, and although I’m not sure how they do it, if Miller can go 7-1, or 6-2 down the stretch, maybe make it to the semi’s, can you still get rid of him? It’s a big if at this point, but I don’t think we’re to the point where you can fully write off Miller’s chances of returning. 2 weeks from now, that may change.
I feel like it’s becoming very Murray heavy here at OVC Ball, but I have no intention on changing that right now. This is one of the top national storylines of the college basketball season, so skipping out on a Murray game to see any other OVC team play would be insane at this point. I promise, next season, another OVC team has this kind of run, I’ll be there, like I am with Murray now.
[Eastern Kentucky 85, Tennessee State 91, 2OT]
This is one of those games, that if EKU needs a W at the end of the year for a bye, or even getting into the OVC tournament, they’ll look back at and say “we should of had it.” The Colonels first squandered a 12-point 2nd half lead, but had the ball with 30 seconds left in regulation of a tie game, and also with 3 seconds in regulation, and couldn’t get a bucket.
That being said, what a game from Mike DiNunno and Jaron Jones, both finishing with over 30 points. Joshua Jones added 13, and that makes all but 9 of EKU’s 85 points. 5 other players, who played a combined 113 minutes…scored 9 points, total. Combined 2-13 from the field. You can’t expect everyone to score a lot of points in every game, but especially in a game that goes to 2 OT’s, you need offensive production from more than 3 people. This is the same problem Tennessee Tech has been having all season, and this isn’t the first time it’s cost the Colonels.
Free Throws played a big part in this game for the Tigers: Tennessee State shoots more than twice as many free throws as the Colonels, (not entirely surprising being that the Colonels aren’t generally a slashing team) and only one player finishes in foul trouble, despite the extra 10 minutes. We also had a Kenny Moore sighting, as the formerly suspended forward finished with 15 points and 5 steals in 27 minutes. The Tigers have a rough night from the 3-point line, and allow 13 3’s from the Colonels, but still come away with the double overtime win.
[UT Martin 73, Austin Peay 92]
Tennessee State scores 91 points in 2 overtimes. Austin Peay scored 92 in regulation. As has become the norm with the Skyhawks, they were in the game at the half…and still lose by almost 20.
One question that’s being asked is why is Mike Miller on the hot seat and Jason James not? Well, James’ seat is getting a little warmer, but are a few differences. First, Miller’s seat was warm last season. James? We were singing his praises after the way the Skyhawks finished the season. Second, the Skyhawks are dealing with injuries to key players. Eastern Illinois can’t really say that, at least not right now. Third, Miller has had 7 years. James only 3. And finally, Miller is at the end of his contract, and James just signed an extension last summer.
All that being said, if money wasn’t an issue, I’m sticking by all my previous statements that I think James should be given more time. This is still a very young team, and the injuries are about as valid of an excuse as you can have. But make no mistake, this team is on pace for one of the worst season in the Skyhawks Division-I history. They’ve won only 1 game against D-I competition, (and from what I’ve heard, that win against UAB should probably have an asterisk) a number that might not change.
Since OVC play began, we’re now starting to see flashes of the Tyshwan Edmondson that caught everyone by surprise last season. But the even better news for the Governors is that he got a lot of help from the starters, who shot better than 60% from the field as a unit. John Fraley added his 4th double-double of the year (he’s almost averaging one) and is making a claim as the best big man in the OVC.