Kudos to SIU Edwardsville for actually winning in Edwardsville. Because out of 5 games tonight, they were the only team to hold home court. Does anybody want to be the 2-seed right now?
But the funny thing is that teams are starting to come full circle a little bit, and almost shaking out like we thought they might in July. Tennessee Tech and Tennessee State are now tied for the 2-seed, 1/2 a game ahead of SEMO, who looked almost untouchable at the beginning of this week.
Now if only teams could figure out what to do with those pesky Cougars who keep winning in Edwardsville.
Here’s tonight’s Final Word:
[No. 10/9 Murray State 65, UT Martin 58]
Hey, the lights stayed on! (Sorry. Had to go there.)
One moment that you don’t get to see on TV is how coaches are before and after the game is played. During part of the women’s game, Murray State head coach Steve Prohm was sitting on a mostly empty media row, cool as a cucumber watching the women play. After the game, Prohm and UT Martin head coach Jason James got together, and began talking about the game, and each other’s teams like good friends from rival schools would. The media likes to make a lot of rivalries between coaches, like between UConn and Tennessee on the women’s side, but I don’t think many ever talk about the respect and friendship that probably coaches have for probably 97% of the coaches they face. I’ve heard the phrases “fraternity of coaches” used often, and tonight was another example of that.
I mentioned in my game story about Mike Liabo‘s tweet about letting his team down, but as I got back to Paducah, I saw this tweet from his teammate Dane Smith: “Not true bro we a Team, we grind together and stay together!!!!” Always great to see players lifting teammates up after a rough game.
[Tennessee Tech 76, Jacksonville State 68]
Revenge exacted? Sure. But it probably shouldn’t have been needed in the first place.
The trio (Kevin Murphy, Jud Dillard, and Zac Swansey) are at the top of their game right now, and the Golden Eagles are reaping the benefits. Murphy continues his 20+ point scoring streak, scoring an almost pedestrian 23 points; Dillard nabs a double-double with 26 points and 12 rebounds; and Zac Swansey dishes out 11 assists. This has supposed to be the script all season. For some reason, it just took much longer to be written than most of us expected. But someone has switched the script on Jacksonville State.
What was once a great defense that rivaled the mighty Racers has now allowed their last 3 opponents to shoot 59% or better from the floor. And then their offense, which was struggling at the beginning of conference play to score past the 50’s, is getting close to or into the 70’s every night. For the most part, it’s been for the been for the better, but wow, what a change.
[Morehead State 56, Eastern Illinois 55]
A free throw from Angelo Warner with less than 3 seconds seal the win for Morehead State, a team that has struggled on the road this week. But you’ll take any wins you can get on the road and smile, and I’m sure that what the Eagles players are doing.
And the offense didn’t struggle as much as the score would lead you to believe. The Eagles actually shot 57% from the field, but only attempted 30 field goals in 40 minutes of play. Pace is a big reason as to why, as neither team really look to push the ball. The Eagles also made it to the free-throw line, going 17-22 from the charity stripe, something the Panthers didn’t do at all.
In fact, Eastern Illinois goes only 4-6 from the line, and lose despite 9 made 3-pointers, 5 of which came from Joey Miller. But that’s the only shot Miller took, going 5-12 from 3-point range, with 0 attempted 2-pointers. You’re not going to get fouled on a three very often. Even if the refs were letting the players play, if you drive the basketball with any kind of regularity, you’re going to get to the free throw line more than 3 times. You’re just not going to win many games when you’re outscored on the line by 13 points.
[Eastern Kentucky 74, SIU Edwardsville 80]
All I can do is laugh. You may remember in the First Word where I pointed out that in all of SIU Edwardsville conference wins, they hit at least 6 threes. Tonight, they hit 9 of 15. That’s 60%. And they won. Of course they did. It’s the magic number. Seriously, give the Cougars all the inside looks that want. All night. But if you want to beat them, you HAVE to take away the 3. It’s becoming comical at this point at how many teams just don’t.
I’m not trying to take anything away from the Cougars, who somehow manage to get these great looks often. Another great game from Corey Wickware and Mark Yelovich who both finish with more than 20 points, and the Cougars got the win despite shooting 17 fewer attempts than EKU. Of course, when you’re making most of your shots, the number of attempts isn’t all that important.
Eastern Kentucky got into a lot of foul trouble, part of the cause of their demise tonight. Their top 2 scorers, Jaron Jones, and Mike DiNunno fouled out of the game, making coming back from a late game deficit very challenging for the Colonels. They got better offensive production from the rest of their starters, and their bench, then we’ve seen in many of their games, which is encouraging. But I’m wondering at the end of the season how many teams will be looking at a loss to Edwardsville and seriously wishing they could have won against the team picked last in the conference, and that only had 2 wins in non-conference play.
[Tennessee State 75, SEMO 72]
So the Redhawks are beatable in Cape Girardeau. Interesting…
What’s also interesting is how the Redhawks started this game: slow. Tennessee State jumped out to a 19-9 lead. While the Redhawks would battle back and take the lead by halftime, I wonder if they were still a little down after their letdown against the Racers? I’m certain they wouldn’t admit it if they were. I’m also going to throw the guards under the bus again, because how many turnovers did SEMO cause. They had 17, a return to form after a great game handling the ball against the Racers. But how many did they force.
4. They forced 4 turnovers. FOUR. And the Redhawks did so many other things right. They hit 10-3’s. (Although I’d bet many of those were down the stretch) Had 17 offensive rebounds. Got 15 assists. Leon Powell has a double-double. But…FOUR!
Props go to Tennessee State for holding onto the basketball, and major props go to Robert Covington for leading his team with his 7th double-double of the season. Kenny Moore comes through off the bench hitting 3-4 from deep (but 1-7 from 2-point range. Go figure) and Kellen Thorton adds 15 points off the bench. No starter not named Covington reached double figure scoring. The Tigers have now won 5 straight, and 7 of 8, and get their first of two shots at the Racers this week. This is not a team to take lightly.