In case you didn’t catch the joke on Twitter, I less than lovingly named yesterday “Big 10” day in the Ohio Valley Conference after two horribly low scoring performances, including one during which I wasn’t wholly certain that either team would make it to 40.
But the top two matchups of the night were more than exciting enough to make up for the rest of the slate.
Here’s last night’s Final Word:
[SEMO 73, No. 10/9 Murray State 81]
Many of SEMO’s players, and I bet many of the fans, thought that SEMO had a good chance to win this game, and I mostly agree. But we’ve seen teams go 20, 25, even 30 minutes before against good teams, and not just in the OVC, and lose a game late. Yes, it was a great effort for 27 minutes. But then Murray State’s talent simply shined after that. I’m not trying to take anything away from SEMO, but let’s also realize that the Redhawks gave the Racers everything they had, and lost by 9.
The easy argument to make here is that the Racers were at home, and as I said, there was 1 moment that was the loudest I’ve ever heard the CFSB Center. But if SEMO really think they’re going to keep Murray fans out of the Show Me Center in a few weeks, they need to talk to some EIU fans, or some SIUE fans, and ask them how many Murray fans got tickets and showed up. I can promise you that Murray fans are right now trying to, and succeeding at, buying tickets for the rematch in Cape Girardeau. And if Isaiah Canaan, or another Racer hits big buckets, you will hear them loudly there too.
[Tennessee Tech 94, Austin Peay 88]
Well. What now, Govs? Disappointing non-conference record can be attributed to the toughness and injury. What can you say about being 6-6 in the OVC? I’m not trying to call this team out, but Austin Peay is in the running for most disappointing team in the OVC this year, in a conference that has a team with just 1 Division I win, a team playing their first ever year in a Division I conference, a team that lost one of the best players in the OVC in a decade, and Eastern Illinois, which is just a mess.
Now before I get too down on Austin Peay, the Govs are still in the race for the final bye in Nashville, along with Eastern Kentucky, Morehead State, and maybe even Jacksonville State, so it’s not season over by any means. But that’s never been the expectation in Clarksville, and especially this year, that’s not the expectation. I’m not saying this team is awful, I’m just saying that this team has underachieved as much as any other OVC team this year, and more than most. And I’d still be saying that if their rival Murray State wasn’t 22-0 right now.
A lot of great individual offensive performances in this game. John Fraley nets a career high 31 points in the loss, shooting 10-13 from the field, 11-12 from the free throw line (he’s a center) and pulls down 17 rebounds on top of it. Kevin Murphy hits five 3’s for TTU, and although he didn’t shoot a great percentage from the field, goes 10-12 from the line to score 33 just days after going for 51. And not to be outdone, Jud Dillard is almost perfect from the line, (13-14) and finished with 29 points. The one person who didn’t have a good game, at all, was Tyshwan Edmondson, who went just 1-12 from the field.
[Eastern Kentucky 47, Eastern Illinois 43]
Your Big 10 Game of the Week! When two of the slowest paced teams in the nation get together, this has to pretty much be what you expect. The good news is that only 653 people paid to see it. If you’re one of those 653 people, you probably should be entitled to a refund.
Honestly, I have no answers as to what Eastern Illinois needs to do. There no one or two things they’re doing badly. It doesn’t appear at this point with the talent that’s on this team, that this season is salvageable. They have some good pieces, but are woefully short to finishing the puzzle.
Eastern Kentucky needed a win, and although it was about as ugly as they get, they did get a W on the road, and are now in the 4th spot in the OVC tournament. But, with Murray being so dominant this season, all bye seeds aren’t equal, as the 2 and 3 seeds get to postpone a possible date with the Racers until the finals, whereas the 4 seed must face Murray along the way. And there’s always the hope that last season will repeat itself and the Racers will fall in the semis. They need to put this performance in the rear view mirror (win or not, there’s not a whole lot of positives in this one.) and hold home court, and hope for a few more upsets. Which at this point are hardly upsets, unless UTM or Murray State is involved.
[Morehead State 53, SIU Edwardsville 61]
This is what I get for saying nice things about the Eagles. But this was a wacky win for the Cougars. (As they always seem to be when SIUE wins.)
The Eagles shot 21 more shots from the field than SIUE thanks to rebounding (mostly) and turnovers. In fact, the Cougars turned the ball over 17 times, only pulled down 2 offensive rebounds…and won. They out shot the Eagles by 20% from the field, and won by just 8. But the stat of the night, and great one for SIU Edwardsville: 17 assists on 21 made buckets. Mark Yelovich has a lights out game, shooting 10-11 from the field, but doesn’t get to the free throw line once. Not a lot of fouls were called at all in this one, but that didn’t really stop Drew Kelly from picking up 2 very early fouls.
So I thought the Eagles were going to be OVC contenders, and they still might, but it’s going to be hard to make that case in next week’s Power Rankings. For the first time since Terrance Hill went down, we really saw Morehead State struggle on the offensive end. It was bound to happen. But this brings me back to the argument I made in this team’s Power Rankings, that Morehead State’s recent success could be attributed mostly to simply playing at home. They’re not making much of a case otherwise right now.
[Jacksonville State 85, UT Martin 74]
Before I even get to the game…what is the issue with keeping the power on in the gym? Does someone keep accidentally hitting a light switch that operates all power in the arena? This has happened twice now. This season. During a game. You are a NCAA Division I facility. High schools have a better record than you do of keeping the power on. Can we please get this fixed?
Other than the power issues, the Skyhawks played well. They shot almost 62% from the field against a team that has had one of the best defenses in the OVC this year, but simply couldn’t stop the suddenly resurgent Jacksonville State offense. Of course when a team goes 23-24 from the free throw line like the Gamecocks did, that doesn’t exactly help things. As I’ve said many times before, I really want UTM to get a win or two. I don’t like any team going winless in conference play, but I also genuinely wanted this team to do somewhat well this year. That hasn’t remotely happened.
I keep talking about the Gamecocks defense, but if we don’t see it again soon it’s going to be hard to keep calling them one of the best defenses in the OVC. When I talk about flipping switches, all of a sudden this team gets rid of one person, and they’re the complete opposite team they were before. I love it that the Gamecocks are finally scoring, but that shouldn’t have to come at the expense of your defense, right?