There is a statistic that has me floored at the moment. It first came to me from Luke Thompson of the Leaf-Chronicle, who tweeted it before Tuesday’s OVC coaches conference call.
The bottom four teams in the OVC West Division: Austin Peay, Eastern Illinois, SIU Edwardsville, and UT Martin are a combined 0-30 in true road games.
Zero for thirty. You would think that one team would have won one by accident at some point. It’s January. Every team should have at least one road win at this point, right? There is a fifth winless team on the road as well in the conference: Morehead State, and they’re 8-8.
Morehead State has a very good chance to break their road streak tonight. UT Martin with a chance for the West Division tomorrow.
Since I’m giving the negative, how about the positive. Three OVC teams remain undefeated at home, and they’re all in the East Division: Tennessee State, Eastern Kentucky, and Belmont.
For the podcast fans, added a little production value to this week’s, with some jazzy intro music, and much more coach sound. It almost sounds like a podcast this week. Also, if you’re an iTunes user, the OVC Ball podcast can be found there. Just search OVC Ball, and you can subscribe. Or you can just listen to it here, it’s not going anywhere.
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Here’s today’s First Word:
Morehead State (8-8, 2-0) at Austin Peay (4-12, 0-2)
7:00 p.m. CST
If you’ve been following OVC basketball this year, then this will be a simple question: Name the team with the most possessions per game? Obviously, it’s Morehead State. Now, name the team that’s second?
If you said Austin Peay, you get a gold star. For, at nothing else, you’re able to discern context clues. (Probably wouldn’t have asked the question if the answer was not playing in this game)
While it could be a very up-tempo game at the Dunn Center in Clarksville tonight, I’ll stop short of calling the game “action-packed.” Although Morehead State has been better in OVC play, they still have a tendency to foul often, and neither team is known for their ball control.
Morehead State can be a tough team to guard, as their isn’t a primary man to guard. Milton Chavis leads the Eagles with 12 points per game, but hasn’t reached that mark in three of his last five games. Angelo Warner has been playing well as of late, but his season high is just 15 points. After a very slow start, forward Drew Kelly has put up double-digits in his past three games, and Maurice Lewis-Briggs has had a few good nights of his own. This team wants to take advantage of the mismatch, and the hot hand, and for the most part they’ve done a good job of doing so.
Not having a true three-point threat is somewhat of a problem, as defenses can pack it in somewhat and be pretty effective. The half-court offense is really where the Eagles need to succeed, because you can’t always rely on steals to generate offense. That’s part of their gameplan, sure, and they’re pretty good at it, ranked in the top-20 in the nation in tempo free forced turnover rate, but they’re in the bottom 25 in turnovers themselves. Many of their turnovers aren’t steals, but errors: bad passes, out of control plays. Continuing to reduce their own errors will go a long way in conference play.
Austin Peay knows a thing or two about self-inflicted wounds, having back-to-back 28 turnovers games earlier this season, and having lead in the second half of their past four losses. The Governors have played good at times in conference play, but haven’t put together 40 minutes. Austin Peay has outshot both of their OVC opponents, but has lost the turnover battle, been edged on the boards, and made mental miscues of their own, highlighted in the final :15 of overtime in their loss to UT Martin. (Although I still don’t know how you make that foul call with :00.1 left.)
Travis Betran has been absolutely great for the Governors as of late. In two OVC games, the JUCO transfer who won Newcomer of the Week last week (and had to be close for Player of the Week honors) has averaged 26 points and 5 and a half assists. Will Triggs has had two solid games, including the double-double in the loss to SEMO, and Anthony Campbell has shown flashes of being a great player. Chris Horton had a great start, but has been much more inconsistent as of late. There’s good talent on the offensive side of the ball, (although, admittedly not a lot of depth) but it simply hasn’t translated to defense. That’s what’s costing them second half leads, and that’s what costing them games right now.
Eastern Kentucky (12-3, 2-0) at Murray State (11-3, 2-0)
7:00 p.m. CST
So, be honest, who had this as a marquee matchup in January? Yeah, just go ahead and put your hands down.
Expected or not, the number one and two most efficient offenses meet up in Murray tonight, with EKU the current leader in that category. Despite a very different way of getting there, both teams have had similar results this year: Both teams have good three-point shooters, their guards can attack the basket, and neither team has been spectacular defensively. One of the big differences between the two: rebounding. The Racers have a huge edge on the board, as Ed Daniel is doubling up the Colonels best rebounder in average per game.
In fact, it’s closer to triple than it is to double.
And that’s the one thing that’s really missing from this Eastern Kentucky squad: a solid big man in the middle. They have a trio of great guards in Glenn Cosey, Mike DiNunno, and Corey Waldrop. And they’ve got some 6’7″ and 6’8″ guys that can play the four and five slots.
But they don’t have a dominant big man. Sophomore Eric Stutz averages just four rebounds a game, same for 6’5″ Tarius Johnson. What they do have is depth at that position, relative to their starters. They have enough guys to remain aggressive in the paint, and for the most part not worry about fouling. With Murray State almost tragically shallow across the board, if EKU’s frontcourt is given the greenlight to play aggressively, it could help counteract Daniel, although it’s a very, very tall task.
Isaiah Canaan’s foot still isn’t 100%. It wasn’t 100% against SEMO, either, when the All-American reminded us how he earned that title in the second half. Of course, that was after a first half that reminded us how unhealthy that foot truly is. Murray State always needs a big game from him, and he’s been able to deliver almost all season long. Stacy Wilson has become a surprisingly good rebounder for the Racers, an area they’ve been much improved in over the past couple of games. In fact, Wilson is now ahead of 6’9″ Brandon Garrett in rebounds for the season, which may say more about Garrett than Wilson.
The freshman are getting better, especially Jeffery Moss as of late. LaTreze Mushatt is still not 100%, according to Prohm, so depth will remain an issue for at least a little bit longer for Murray State.