A pair of games in the West could have a huge impact on the OVC Tournament, EKU is a road underdog against their rivals, and Murray State looks to not only keep the momentum rolling, but get revenge on a ominous anniversary.
Isn’t February basketball great?
Game of the Day:
Tennessee State 14-10 (8-3) at Murray State 17-5 (8-2)
7 p.m. CST
Today marks one year to the day of Tennessee State ending Murray State’s season, so it’s only fitting that the Tigers and Racers are meeting again in Murray. Robert Covington is still not 100%, and played just 17 minutes in TSU’s overtime win against Austin Peay. The Racers are coming off their best shooting night in two weeks (just 44%) and led almost wire-to-wire over Belmont, before giving up a 15-point lead in the final six minutes.
Isaiah Canann is coming off a 26-point performance thanks to 15 free-throws. Tennessee State has been known to get into a spot of foul trouble this season, and will need to avoid sending the Racers to the line. The battle inside should be a good one, with the number one rebounder in OVC play Ed Daniel battling it out with number two, Kellen Thorton.
There’s much more riding on this game for Tennessee State than Murray State, which has all but wrapped up the West Division. A win for Murray keeps them in the race for the regular-season crown, while TSU continues their battle for the three-seed, which would allow them to avoid the top seed until the OVC Tournament finals.
Game With The Most At Stake
SIU Edwardsville 8-12 (4-6) at UT Martin 6-17 (3-8)
After a downright embarrassing loss to Eastern Illinois, UT Martin is in must-win mode. A loss here would put the Skyhawks in a corner, likely requiring them to win three of their final four and hope some other pieces fall into place to earn a spot in Nashville. A win, and the Skyhawks are back in the race.
The question, can they stop Jerome Jomes, coming off a career night in a loss to Southeast Missouri. Correction, can the Skyhawks stop anyone, after allowing Eastern Illinois to shoot 65% from the floor, in Martin.
SIU Edwardsville is in slightly better position than the Skyhawks, but that goes away with a loss today. If one of these teams miss the OVC Tournament, this is one those games that could be the reason why.
The Rest Of The Slate
Eastern Illinois 7-17 (4-7) at Southeast Missouri 12-13 (4-7)
5:30 p.m. CST
Eastern Illinois is hot, winners of three of their last four games, and coming off their best offensive performance in nearly a decade. SEMO has stopped the bleeding, after losing seven of eight. A win tonight puts both teams in good position to make the OVC Tournament.
Eastern Kentucky 18-6 (7-3) at Morehead State 11-13 (5-5)
7:30 p.m. EST
Morehead State is a two point favorite over the Colonels, who are coming off a easy win Tuesday against non-Division I Crowley Ridge. Morehead State has lost two straight, and is hoping a return to the friendly confines of Johnson Arena can end their two game losing streak. A win by Morehead keeps hope alive of a single-bye, whereas a loss all but makes it a two-team race for second in the East.
Belmont 19-5 (10-1) at Austin Peay 5-19 (1-9)
7:30 p.m. CST
The Bruins are coming off their first loss of the season. Austin Peay is coming off their third overtime loss of the year. A loss tonight all but officially ends the Governors chances of making it to Nashville, and even a major upset might not be enough. Bruins are 15 1/2 point favorites on the road, coming off a loss where they shot 52% from the floor.
Jacksonville State 15-7 (7-4) at Tennessee Tech 8-14 (2-8)
7:30 p.m. CST
Tennessee Tech is another team in dire straights when it comes to qualifying for the OVC Tournament, and need to hold home court today. The Gamecocks have won three straight, despite the worst rebounding in the league.
Five Things to Watch
- Sherman Blandford vs the Southeast Missouri frontcourt. Blandford has three double-doubles in his last five games, the same as Tyler Stone and Nino Johnson combined. Battle of the bigs could have a big impact on the outcome.
- Morehead State’s rebounding against EKU. The Eagles lead the league in rebounds, and have won the battle of the boards in four straight games. They won the battle in these teams first meeting, but it wasn’t enough to overcome a rough shooting night.
- The road team has won the last three regular season meetings between Tennessee State and Murray State, with the last home win coming over two years ago.
- Without looking, do you know who leads the OVC if field goal percentage in conference games? Hint: He’s playing in the Belmont – Austin Peay game today. If you said Ian Clark, you’re wrong. He’s second, behind Austin Peay’s Will Triggs, who is shooting 67.5% from the field. The Governors also have the league leader in blocks, Chris Horton. Yes, I’m talking about the 1-9 Governors here.
- The best assist-to-turnover rate in the league? If you said Eastern Illinois’ Austin Akers, give yourself a pat on the back. Because it wouldn’t have been my first, second, or probably even seventeenth guess.