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The OVC continues to surprise…and prove me wrong at every turn.

I think the kiss of death is when, for whatever reason, I don’t preview a game. Earlier this year, I stopped previewing games against “lower division” teams and the first night I did that, an OVC team lost to an NAIA team. Today, I don’t give much of a preview to Tennessee State at Jacksonville State, because what are the odds JSU’s offense shows up, right?

Apparently, really good.

Maybe I should try to be more positive!

Are you done laughing? Good. Here’s tonight’s Final Word:

[Tennessee State 65, Jacksonville State 72] Good news: you’re into the OVC win column Gamecocks. Bad news:  you go to Murray next. I hear they’re kind of good.

Overall, this was a great balanced win. The Gamecocks got out to a quick start, and let the Tigers get back into the game late before hitting enough free throws to put this game away. The offense was solid, and the defense held Tennessee State to under 30% shooting. If they rebounded better, the Tigers likely would never gave gotten back into this game.

This loss for the Tigers is leading me to believe that it’s not just 5-11 in the conference who are packed closely together talent wise, it’s 2-11. It’s not that I think the Tigers are a 2, 3, or 4 seed at this point, it’s just that every team we expected to be good have taken what we thought was a bad loss. (Looking at you Tennessee Tech) I think much like last year, the talent of most of the teams isn’t so much better we should assume they’re going to win, especially on the road. Even Eastern Kentucky, whose only loss is to the Racers, nearly fell to an injured Gamecocks squad in Alabama.

I still think the Tigers are a better team, call me stubborn if you wish. And I think the Tigers will finish the OVC with a stronger record with Jacksonville State. But I’m done calling the Tigers my dark horse. I was wrong. There, I said it.

[SEMO 59, Eastern Kentucky 63] While Murray State at Austin Peay was a much more exciting game, it didn’t go to the wire like this one. EKU knocks SEMO from the ranks of conference unbeaten, hitting 2 go ahead free throws with just 34 seconds remaining.

And SEMO did something you don’t see often: Shoot 57% from the field, and lose to a team that shoots just 36%. 20-percent better from the field. If you said “3’s” you’re partially right. Also turnovers; SEMO had double as many as EKU.

And then there’s the free throw line. Bad enough, EKU takes 11 more free throw attempts than you. Much, much, MUCH worse: You hit 4-13. That’s 31%. FROM THE FREE THROW LINE. Yes, I’m yelling. How? How do you shoot 57% from the field, and 31% from the FT line? 1,450 in attendance, so let’s throw out “crowd noise” as an viable excuse. EKU hits 20 of 24, and you hit 4. Just 4. You will not win games hitting 4-13. Ever. Write it down. Tattoo it on your forehead. Is not happening.

Rant over. I still like SEMO. Leon Powell is a non-factor again, but Tyler Stone is. Every body that talks about SEMO keeps wanting to talk about Powell. I say forget what Powell did last year, and look at what Stone is doing for this team this year. If you’re putting a Redhawka big man on an all-midseason conference team, Stone is my pick. Not Powell.

Jaron Jones hits 20 points again (yawn?!?) as does Joshua Jones (!?!) for the Colonels. By the way, both players hit as many or more free throws than SEMO as a team. Okay, so maybe the rant wasn’t completely over…

[SIU Edwardsville 69, UT Martin 65] Okay SIU Edwardville, the OVC is paying attention. At least I am, and the rest of the conference should be. What else you got for us?

This 3-1 start has completely caught me, and most everyone, by surprise. I feel bad that the Cougars can’t make the OVC tournament because it looks like they should at this point.

As for the Skyhawks, I don’t know to say anymore. Mike Liabo has a career night, scoring 26, but Myles Taylor adds just 10 points, and only 4 rebounds, and plays just 14 minutes. (and it wasn’t for foul trouble) Two other starters combine to go 0-3 from the field, for 0 total points. Starters. How does that happen? Neither played 20 minutes, but your starters can’t put goose eggs on the board. I just…I mean…What else is there to say?

I still believe Jason James is the right man in Martin, and needs at least another year to show us why. But there are a lot of people who disagree with me, and they’re only going to get louder as the year goes on.

[No. 19/18 Murray State 87, Austin Peay 75] Full Recap

Can we all agree now that the Racers ranking is justified? They just won by 12, on the road, without a key starter. If you’re a fan that chants “Overrated,” when playing the Racers, you have no clue.

That aside, this was fun. Really, really fun. This is my favorite trip to make every year. This game, in Clarksville, has the best atmosphere of any game in the OVC, year after year. I love the fans. Austin Peay’s, especially, like to push the envelope, but I love it. And Murray State brings so many fans you can hear them over the home fans, over the band during the game when the Racers are making a run.

And it’s almost always a classic, and this game didn’t disappoint. The score doesn’t tell the entire story: this was a battle from tip to buzzer. If Austin Peay plays like that every night, no way they’re 3-13. And if Murray plays like that every night down the stretch, it’s going to be tough to send the Racers to the loss column.

[Eastern Illinois 74, Houston Baptist 62] Oh yay. They won. Now somebody tell me why I should care that they won.

Okay, that was kind of harsh. No doubt that the Eastern has put together a great non-conference record, but what does it mean for the Panthers in the long run? They’ve won just one game against teams with a top-200 RPI (Maine) and have only played at home once (the blowout against Murray State) in the last month.

No doubt the Panthers should be road tested, though, going into conference play, and that might work to their advantage. They are SIU Edwardsville’s only loss in conference play, after all.

It does appear that Mike Miller has become more comfortable with his lineup: Only 7 players earned significant minutes in this game, which is similar to what we saw against Edwardsville. Injuries likely are part of the reason, but I think it’s good; I don’t think Eastern Illinois can win with 11 players splitting minutes.

[Morehead State 55, Tennessee Tech 66] Yeah, I’d say the Eagles missed Terrance Hill. 20 turnovers, just 7 free throw attempts as a team, and 55 total points. But is any Eagles fan kind of encouraged from the team’s play without Hill so far? Winning at Jacksonville State, and playing a tough Tennessee Tech team tight? It could be much worse.

For the Golden Eagles, nothing new. The same trio have a good game, and TTU wins. They have a formula, they execute it, and they win. As a fan, you can’t complain as long as they keep that going.

Finally, the stat of the game: 0 combined blocks. Neither team has one. Don’t see that often.


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OVC Ball
Compiling all OVC non-conference games

2016 Football Standings

OVC Overall
Jacksonville State 7-0 10-2
UT Martin 6-2 7-5
Tennessee Tech 5-3 5-6
Tennessee State 4-3 7-4
Eastern Illinois 4-4 6-5
Murray State 4-4 4-7
SEMO 3-5 3-8
Eastern Kentucky 2-6 3-8
Austin Peay 0-8 0-11


2016-17 Basketball Standings

OVC Overall

EAST

Belmont 15-1 23-7
Morehead State 10-6 14-16
Jacksonville State 9-7 20-15
Tennessee State 8-8 17-13
Tennessee Tech 8-8 12-20
Eastern Kentucky 5-11 12-19

WEST

UT Martin 10-6 22-13
SEMO 9-7 15-18
Murray State 8-8 16-17
Austin Peay 7-9 11-19
Eastern Illinois 6-10 14-15
SIUE 1-15 6-24


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