First off, after an all night session in front of a computer with Photoshop, the new graphics are done. Hope you enjoy them.
After Thursday’s chaos was inflicted upon us, I look at today’s schedule and seriously wonder which home team, if any, comes away with a win. SIU Edwardsville has the benefit of a sell out, (but how many are Murray fans?) Morehead State has the benefit of playing UT Martin and an extra days rest, Eastern Illinois has the benefit of…um…not traveling, and Tennessee Tech might not have any benefit to playing at home at all, if Thursday is any indication.
Yeah, could be another one of those days.
Here’s today’s First Word:
[Austin Peay (7-13, 4-3) at Eastern Illinois (9-8, 2-3), 6:00 p.m. CST]
Austin Peay is rolling, Eastern Illinois appears to be rolling over. Just the beginning of good news for the road team.
For Eastern Illinois, over the past few games, Joey Miller has surpasses Alfonzo McKinnie for 2nd in scoring on the team. Miller has had 5 straight double-digit games, McKinnie has had 4 straight single-digit games, including just 4 points on Thursday against Tennessee State. It’s great to see Miler’s scoring improving, but for the team to get better, they don’t need to happen at the expense of McKinnie, whose rebounding numbers have also been down. We know Eastern Illinois is a guard oriented team, but if you can have a forward like McKinnie succeed, you get a lot more balance, which make you more difficult to defend.
What’s amazing over this 4 game win streak is that it’s been all about the Governors offense. Austin Peay is putting up over 72 points a game, and have allowed 2 teams in that 4-game span to shoot 49% or better from the floor. The thing is in that same span, the Governors have only been kept under 50% shooting once, that 3-point win against Jacksonville State.
[UT Martin (3-17, 0-7) at Morehead State (9-11, 3-4), 6:00 p.m. CST]
If the Eagles had completed the win against the Racers on Wednesday night, I would likely say this game has all the earmarks of a let down game. That could still be the case, but given that it’s UT Martin, who hasn’t strung back-to-back strong performances all season, I’m kind of doubting it.
At this point, I’m wondering what’s next out of Drew Kelly. Back to back 20 points games, 3 in the last 5 outings, this sophomore has step up big time since Terrance Hill went down. We saw him have great games against 2 lower division teams early in the season, but until recently, we seemed to have problems finding his footing from the field. Not anymore, apparently.
Tennessee Martin has established a solid scoring duo in Mike Liabo and Myles Taylor, but it’s not been without issues. Liabo will get his 15 points, just may take 15 shots to do so. And while Taylor is an established scorer in the post, his rebounding hasn’t been that solid. (With his 12 rebounds against EKU being an exception) Both players are young, and I fully expect will get better in time, but the Skyhawks need wins now, not down the line. They need one of their juniors and seniors to step up at least, and so far that simply hasn’t happened.
[SEMO (10-8, 5-1) at Tennessee Tech (11-8, 3-3), 7:30 p.m CST]
This is the match up of the day. SEMO has a chance to solidify their position as an OVC front runner, and keep their chances alive of possibly winning the OVC crown, and Tennessee Tech needs a win in the worst way to keep their chances of a high seed in Nashville alive, and to get that Jacksonville State taste out of their mouths, so to speak.
I’ve been high on the Redhawks all season, and have just been waiting for a guard to step up. Enter Marland Smith. 9-straight games with at least 10 points, (5 of those games with more than 20 points) is shooting 45% from the field (he’s a 6′ 2″ guard, in case you were wondering) and also dishes out almost 3 assists a game. The story all year on the Redhawks is “look how good the front court is,” and it still is when Leon Powell can stay out of foul trouble, but now that they have a legitimate threat in the backcourt, this team appears to be separating themselves above the rest of the pack somewhat.
Tennessee Tech, on the other hand, appears to be a complete mess. They have a great guard trio, and then nothing behind them. You have to expect that Kevin Murphy will have the occasional off game. As will Zac Swansey or Jud Dillard. And when that happens, you need a role player to step up. And here’s the thing, in the loss against Jacksonville State, freshman Javon McKay did. He’s scored 16 points all season before Thursday, and put up 15 against the Gamecocks. But starter Terrell Barnes, 4 points. Zach Bailey 5 points. Starter Dennis Ogbe, 9 minutes, 4 points. Swansey, just 4 points. And this isn’t an isolated incident with this team, this is the story of the season.
[No. 12/10 Murray State (19-0, 7-0) at SIU Edwardsville (5-11, 3-4), 8:00 p.m. CST, ESPNU]
The Racers are still undefeated, which means I’m hitting the road again. Live coverage on Twitter @OVCBall
Quick update for Murray State. Ivan Aska is still out with a broken hand. Stacy Wilson didn’t make the trip to Edwardsville after a death in the family early this week. Meaning the Racers are down to just 7 players that have seen significant minutes this year. That being said, we’ve seen teams win in this conference just playing 7, and Jaylan Bland is available off the bench, although he’s only seen limited minutes in just 6 games this year.
And despite that, the Racers are still 17.5 point favorites on the betting line.
What’s been remarkable about this team this season is their resiliency. They played horrible the first 10 minutes against Morehead State. Unbelievably horrible. Isaiah Canaan was frustrated by being double-teamed every time he touched the ball, again. The Racers committed more turnovers than shot attempts in that opening salvo. When they did get a shot off, they couldn’t get them to fall. Yet, they still won, and when they needed shots down the stretch, players that were cold early in the game made them when the Racers needed them. You can’t say that about many teams.
After surprising, well, everyone with their start to the conference season, the Cougars seem to be playing more like most people expected them to play. And yes, I mean losing. But there’s no doubt that SIU Edwardsville isn’t a step behind the conference, which I think many people also expected. But it’s kind of like Tim Tebow. When he first took the field, he made plays no one expected. But as teams got to see him more, they figured him out, and at the end of the season, Tebow was completely ineffective. I’m not saying that’s the path Edwardsville is going down, but it’s a good analogy for what we’ve seen so far: surprising teams with their 3-point shooting ability at the start of conference play, but now that there’s a lot of tape on them, they’re struggling to get those same shots, and as a result, have lost 3 straight OVC games.