A win is a win, except when it’s something more. And for Murray State, their win last night was just that. Something much more. Sure, it only shows up as a single win for the Racers, and a single loss for the Bruins. And it likely won’t change the seeds in the OVC Tournament in March. But under the current seeding structure, the difference between the one and the two seed is minimal.
But from a perception standpoint, the win was monumental. A week ago, Belmont looked head and shoulders ahead of the conference. And coming off a loss at Jacksonville State, Murray State looked like just another team, with a good record in a bad division.
But that’s changed now. Belmont looks more vulnerable in the OVC Tournament, (although it will be happening in their backyard) and Murray State has once again shown they’re not to be taken lightly come tournament time.
Belmont fans will say I’m reading too much into one game, and they could be right. But if it weren’t for a late run, Belmont would have been run out of the CFSB Center. Much like Murray was nearly run out of their own gym earlier this season than Eastern Kentucky.
Does this mean the Colonels can beat Belmont in Nashville? It’s obviously possible. But EKU doesn’t matchup well against the Bruins, unlike what head coach Jeff Neubauer proclaimed just a few weeks ago. The teams that Belmont has struggled against, Morehead State and now Murray State, have one big thing in common.
They’re both great rebounding teams, with a solid frontcourt. They pushed around the Bruins on the inside. EKU isn’t going to do that.
But EKU can shoot as well as anyone. And as Murray State learned tonight, you’re going to have to make shots to beat the Bruins.
While we don’t know what March holds, we know this much is true: After last night, the next month just got a whole lot more interesting.
Last Night’s Scores
Belmont 74, Murray State 79
Recap | Belmont erases a 15-point deficit in the game’s final three minutes, but a contested three from Isaiah Canaan with 34 seconds remaining, and a turnover by Ian Clark, send the Bruins to their first conference loss of the season.
Tennessee State 88, Austin Peay 82 (OT)
Are the Governors cursed? A tip-in by Kellen Thorton at the buzzer sends the game to overtime, and TSU runs away in the extra frame. It’s their second straight, and fourth overtime game in conference play for the Govs, who fall to 1-3 in OT.
Eastern Illinois 93, UT Martin 65
So much for the Skyhawks momentum. Five Panthers score in double figures, as Eastern Illinois shoots 65% on the road, and puts up 93 points for the first time in 10 years against a Division I opponent.
SIU Edwardsville 67, Southeast MIssouri 76
Jerome Jones scores 18 points of the Cougars first 23 points, but his 31 on the night isn’t enough to overcome 38% shooting from SIUE. Nino Johnson inks a double-double for the Redhawks in the win.
Three Point Shot
- Quite a few Murray State fans were complaining about the calls late in the game while the Bruins were making their run, but some quick food for thought: Isaiah Canaan tonight went 15-17 from the free throw line. The Bruins, as a team, shot just 13 attempts all night from the charity stripe.
- Let’s be honest, we know that UT Martin’s strength isn’t defense. But allowing a team to score 93 points in your gym? EIU doesn’t even push tempo, and got just 65 possessions in the game. For those keeping score at home, that’s 1.43 points per possession. The national average is 0.98. The Panthers are (obviously) getting much better on the offensive side of the ball, but that’s awful defense. And yes, awful is probably not a strong enough word to describe it.
- On one hand, kudos to Jerome Jones for proving me wrong for saying the Cougars don’t have a scorer that can explode. On the other, take out Jones 11-21 shooting, and his teammates shot just 25.9% from the floor. A little help, guys?
Player of the Night: Isaiah Canaan, Murray State. Cannan’s had a rough month or so. Tonight may have just made up for it. His first multi-three game in three weeks couldn’t have come at a better time for the Racers.
Player of the Night in a loss: Jerome Jones, SIU Edwardsville. See above.
Unsung Hero: A.J. Jones, Southeast Missouri. The JUCO transfer out of Memphis has come on strong as of late, and last night just another example, putting up 11 points and 7 rebounds off the bench for the Redhawks
Teams Trending Upwards: Murray State and Eastern Illinois. Murray State played the most spirited game I’ve seen out of them all season long. And EIU is starting to look like a team you may want to avoid in the first round in Nashville.
Team Trending Downwards: UT Martin. You raised out hopes. And then you dash them with that performance. Still time to make the OVC Tournament, but it’s not going to happen with more nights like last night.
Tweet of the Night: Ian Clark, Belmont. Less than 15 minutes after the loss to Murray, Clark sent the following tweet:
Ill take the blame for that one. I can't make that turnover. We will bounce back. Proud of this team.
— Ian Clark (@IanClark) February 8, 2013
Clark hit two major threes, including one from about 25-feet out, to bring Belmont back to a tie with the Racers in the final minute. While that turnover was tough on the senior, there’s no doubt that without him, Belmont wouldn’t have been in a position to win at all.