Nights like this I’m forced to remind myself what I’ve said in many of these posts already this season: you can’t overreact over early season games. And I really, really want to.
I want to say how the OVC might not be as strong as we thought; How once again the conference is simply losing too many games in November to be considered truly mid-major.
But we’re just two games in for most teams, and even though the OVC is struggling against Division I teams, it’s far too soon to write this off as a down year in the OVC, or a down year for these teams. There’s still a lot of sorting out to be done, and we don’t know how good these teams they’re losing to really are. Two of the three loses tonight were against NCAA Tournament teams last season.
I’m not saying we simply must write off tonight’s losses, only that we should hold off on stating what these loses mean for the state of the team, and the state of the conference.
Although part of me really doesn’t want to do that. Here’s tonight’s Final Word:
Tennessee State 71, South Dakota State 78
Robert Covington had a great night for the Tigers, but it wasn’t enough to stop Nate Wolters, Jordan Dystera and the South Dakota Jackrabbits. Tennessee State trailed by as much as 17 in the second half, before surging back within 4, but South Dakota hit free throws down the stretch to hold off the Tigers.
TSU struggled to make shots again tonight, shooting just 33% in the opening half and 37% on the game. Comparatively the Jackrabbits hit nearly 60% in the opening half, struggling more in the second half as the Tigers made their run. Patrick Miller finished with 12 points and 10 assists, and Covington added a double-double as well scoring a game high 23 points, and pulling down a game high 11 rebounds.
Even before the Tigers began fouling at the end of the game, the Jackrabbits were able to get to the line, hitting 25-32 in the win. The Tigers got just 14 shots at the free throw line. Wolters finished with 22 points and 9 assists for South Dakora, with Dystera adding 18.
Austin Peay 54, Western Kentucky 74
A 18-1 second half run blew a tie game at the half open, as Western Kentucky cruised late to a big win over Austin Peay. The Governors were held to 25% shooting after the break, and struggled to hold on to the ball, turning it over 18 times on the game.
George Fant led the Hilltoppers, finishing with a game high 15 points and 14 rebounds. Western Kentucky easily won the battle on the boards, despite being a smaller squad than the Governors. In you remember in today’s First Word I said pace would dictate which team had the advantage; Over 150 possession in this one, which is a breakneck pace in a 40-minute game.
Freshman Chris Horton had another very good game, putting up a double-double in the loss. Freshman A.J. Lynch, who earned week 1’s OVC freshman of the week honors, scored in double figures as well. Where were the upper classmen? Virtually non-existent: Junior Will Triggs with just 4 points, 2 rebounds in 19 minutes; senior Anthony Campbell 3 points, 2 rebounds in 21 minutes of play.
Wright State 56, Eastern Illinois 44
I hate to go back to this, but at OVC Media day, head coach Jay Spoonhour said, “We don’t score very well. You know, we just don’t. That’s kind of a big deal.”
You’ve got to give him credit for honesty. The Panthers score just 17 opening half points, on their way to putting up just 44 in their home opener. The Panthers shoot 37% on the night, and hit just 4-17 from behind the arc, and despite plenty of missed shots pull down just 4 offensive rebounds. An early 14-4 run put Wright State ahead, and EIU never recovered. Troublesome also, the Panthers hit just 8-16 from the free throw line.
On the plus side, EIU won the turnover battle, and got another good night out of freshman guard Alex Austin, who finished with 11 points on 4-6 shooting. JUCO transfer Sherman Blanford also finished in double digits, on identical shooting from the field.
Wright State didn’t exactly shoot the lights out in the win, hitting just 42% from the field.
Maryville (MO) 49, Belmont 88
So, what did we learn in Nashville tonight? Belmont can be scary good from 3-point range: 14-20, 70% from behind the arc in the win. In fact, the Bruins shot 65% from the floor in the opening 20 minutes, blowing out Maryville for the non-Division I win.
The Bruins will get slighty more tested Sunday when they travel out west to take on Stanford.