Four games on tap today, and they’ve got a lot to live up to if they’re going to match last night’s OVC action, as all four games feature interdivisional matchups. The West Division finally on the scoreboard, with Austin Peay getting an overtime win last night over Morehead State.
An extended version of the podcast today. Not only do we preview tonight’s four matchups, and tell you which player may not return this season, even after playing in the past few games, Tom Via also shares his thoughts on the Eastern Kentucky – Murray State game from last night. Worth a listen if you have the time.
Southeast Missouri (10-7, 2-1) at Belmont (11-4, 2-0)
7:00 p.m. CST
Just four days after a disappointing loss at home to Murray State, the Redhawks face an even greater challenge, as they hit the road for the first time in conference play taking on a surging Belmont team. The Bruins bounced back from a loss at UCF to two very impressive road conference wins last week.
The Redhawks backcourt has been resurgent as of late, with the addition of A.J. Jones back into the starting five. The junior JUCO transfer is coming off solid performances in back-to-back games, giving SEMO a great 1-2 punch in the backcourt with Corey Wilford.
Of course, when it comes to great backcourt combos, it’s hard to argue that the best in the conference isn’t Ian Clark and Kerron Johnson of Belmont. They combine for 30 points, 7 assists, and 3 steals a game, and what’s great is how they really compliment each other. Clark is more of a jump shooter, one of the best three-point shooters in the conference. Johnson, more of a slasher, looking to drive the basketball. It’s really tough on opposing defenses when you have two players that can both attack and score is different ways.
The battle in the frontcourt could be interesting tonight. Tyler Stone and Nino Johnson both struggled against Murray and even against Austin Peay, and suddenly it seems like the SEMO forwards are more susceptible than we may have thought. Belmont’s frontcourt is really underrated, as much of the attention is focused on their stellar guards. Trevor Noack is having a terrific season, averaging more than 12 points and 5 rebounds per game. He’s got good range, and will step out and take some deeper shots if you allow him to. Blake Jenkings is another guy many seem to be looking over; He averages 10 points and 5 rebounds a game as well.
Coming off their throttling of Tennessee Tech, Belmont’s focus could be key to getting a win tonight. Southeast Missouri has proved they can score in bunches at time, but they’ve got to put together a full 40 minutes, and do a better job on the defensive end to leave Nashville with a huge win.
Tennessee Tech (6-9, 0-3) at Eastern Illinois (3-13, 0-3)
7:00 p.m. CST
The Panthers are favored at home tonight, hosting a Tennessee Tech squad off to a disappointing start in conference play. The Golden Eagles challenged Tennessee State at home, but were blown out at Jacksonville State and hosting Belmont.
Youth is really the name of the game tonight, as both teams feature a lot of underclassmen. Alex Austin is beginning to emerge as a playmaker for Eastern Illinois, as is Lanerryl Johnson of Tennessee Tech, who worked his way into the starting lineup against the Bruins.
Jud Dillard isn’t getting a ton of attention this season, given the Golden Eagles struggles, but the senior is second in the conference in scoring, and tied for fifth in rebounds. Against an Eastern Illinois team that struggles to score, (which may be putting it mildly) a big night from him could put the game out of reach. The question is, will he get some help tonight, and from who. Jeremiah Samarrippas has shown he can be a more effective scorer as of late, and Dennis Ogbe continues to grow in his junior year.
Josh Piper hasn’t been as big of a factor for the Panthers as of late compared to what we saw early in the season, and I think that’s one factor that’s been holding the Panthers back a bit. The sophomore continues to lead the team in scoring, but hasn’t been the major playmaker we saw against Texas Pan-American or Houston Baptist. Of course, those teams are on the low end of Division I, and that could definitely have been a factor as well.
Eastern Illinois coach Jay Spoonhour really stressed during this weeks teleconference that his team is improving, even though it might not be showing up in wins and losses. Tennessee Tech coach Steve Payne said much of the same, and one again reiterated he refuses to think of this season as a “rebuilding year” because it’s unfair to his seniors to do so.