In the extremely tight OVC East Division, every game has heightened importance where potential seeding could be involved. After a strong start to conference play, Tennessee State is reeling somewhat: not only losers of two straight, but losers against the top of the conference in a pair of games the Tigers trailed throughout.
After playing the West Division nearly exclusively in January, Morehead State enters the heart of their schedule. It started Thursday, with a heartbreaking loss at home to league-leading Belmont, a team the Eagles led throughout much of the night, only to fall behind in the final two minutes.
Both teams have missed opportunities in OVC play. As a result, both need to seize one tonight.
It’s easy to look at Tennessee State and point to the loss of Robert Covington as a major contributor to the Tigers two recent conference losses, but there’s two other things that were evident: The Tigers inability to generate offense, and inability to hold on to the basketball. Over the past two games, TSU is shooting 40% from the floor, well below their 48% average in their six conference wins. The Tigers also coughed up the ball 15 times in both games, a point of concern for the Tigers all season long.
Generating points, especially in the half-court, continue to remain an issue for Morehead State, although the team has done a better job of late. Credit offensive rebounding, and the improved play of the frontcourt for much of the change. But the Eagles continue to be their own worst enemy. Worst in the OVC in turnovers and fouls, Morehead State hands their opponents far too many points for a team that struggles to earn them through stretches.
Whether it was intended or not, Morehead State hasn’t been playing as much at their breakneck pace we saw so much of in non-conference play. They’re actually in the middle of the OVC in possessions per game in conference play, a stark contrast to December.
While both teams can rebound, the question is what can they do with those rebounds. Players like Chad Posthumus for the Eagles can pull down 5 or more in a game, and still finish with under 10 points, whereas Kellen Thorton is a much more capable scorer inside.
The turnover battle is likely to have a huge impact on the game. Tennessee State controls the ball better than Morehead State, but the Eagles are much better at forcing turnovers with their pressure defense.