Three of the four undefeated teams left in the OVC are in action today, and the preseason favorites in each division face their stiffest tests so far on the season.
As a change from First Word’s in the past, I’m adding the Web Watch as a daily feature to these articles, when there are available links.
Here’s today’s First Word:
Lafayette (1-2) at Morehead State (2-1)
2:00 p.m. EST
Two teams that like to fly up and down the floor meet in what could be a high-scoring affair today in Morehead. Both teams are coming off the opposite ends of blowouts, with Lafayette losing 101-49 to No. 3 Kentucky, and the the Eagles blowing out non-Division I Alice Llyod 101-50.
Despite the blowout loss to the Wildcats, Lafayette is one of the better shooting teams in the nation, hitting better than 46% on the field this season. Slashing guard and 5th year senior Tony Johnson is 18-23 from the floor this season, almost as good as 6’9″ Dan Trist‘s 21-25 on the year. The Leopards have a third double-digit scorer in Seth Hinrichs, who is shooting a pedestrian 46% on the season. Despite the scoring threats, the Leopards are 1-2, thanks mostly to poor defense, and way too many fouls. Ball control has also been an issue for Lafayette, who average 18 turnovers a contest.
Against Alice Lloyd, we saw an offensive attack more closely resembling the offense head coach Sean Woods envisions for his Eagles. It looks like he has a primary scorer in Milton Chavis, but currently no consistent second scorer.
Another concern for the Eagles offense; poor free throw shooting; The Eagles are just 54% from the line so far this season.
Southeast Missouri (2-1) at Chattanooga (1-1)
3:00 p.m. EST
The CBE Classic continues as regional host Chattanooga hosts Southeast Missouri in what could be a battle of the big men. The Redhawks Tyler Stone and Nino Johnson will be matched up against former Georgia forward, 6’9″ Drazen Zlovaric.
Chattanooga has been hot and cold in their two games this year, especially from behind the arc. The Mocs were 2-22 in a win over non Division I Tennesssee Temple, but drained 11 three’s in their only game against Division I competition. Outside of their big man, the Mocs have two more double digit scorers in guard Farad Cobb and forward Zaccheus Mason. Cobb has been the Mocs biggest 3-point threat, and freshman Gee McGhee will likely take his fair share, although he’s just 1-11 so far this year.
Chattanooga has struggled with ball control, but the Redhawks defense isn’t particularly aggressive, and forces few turnovers. The Mocs will play deep into their bench, the opposite of what’s we’ve seen from Dickey Nutt’s squad.
While the Redhawks big men have been solid this season, the guard play has been inconsistent, something that hurt the Redhawks last season as well. Preseason all-OVC selection Marland Smith has scored just 7 points combined in two games against Division I competition, and Lucas Nutt is just 3-13 from the field this year.
Both teams have a common opponent, Kansas, earlier in the Classic. Funny stat: both teams scored exactly 55 against the Jayhawks.
IPFW (2-2) vs Eastern Illinois (1-3)
3:00 p.m. CST
The Panthers finally found some offense in their first win of the year, and today they wrap up the Ice Man Classic against a team still trying to find some offense themselves in IPFW. The Mastadons are shooting just 35% from the field on the season, and 23% from deep.
The IPFW offense runs through junior Frank Gaines. The 6’3″ guard is averaging over 25 points a game, despite sub-par shooting compared to last season behind the arc. In fact, Gaines has taken more than a quarter of the Mastadons shots this season, and nearly twice as many as any of his teammates.
Despite their tallest player being just 6’8″, the Mastodons are a great rebounding team, ranked in the top 75 in the nation in tempo-free rebounding percentage.
The Panthers were able to slow down the pace in their win against Texas Pan-American, and will likely look to do so again against an IPFW team that likes to run. Josh Piper is coming off the best game of his young career, and the Panthers defense is much improved from last season. This team isn’t going to be flashy, and isn’t likely to light up a scoreboard, but this team could be better than expected.
In the classic, both teams have split their two matchups, losing to Eastern Michigan and beating Texas Pan-American.