For a conference that’s proven all too predictable throughout much of the year, Saturday appeared like another ho-hum day of games. Four home teams won, and the one team that did earn a win on the road was hardly a surprise.
But how those games were won is a much different story. Murray State struggles with 5-win Austin Peay, Belmont can’t pull away from Tennessee Tech until the second half, SEMO sticks around against EKU, and SIUE comes back from being down double-digits. There was nothing boring about the games themselves, only the results, which for the most part did little to provide any new insights into the conference.
So for the most part, we stand where we did a week ago.
Austin Peay 68, Murray State 75 (OT)
Austin Peay brought their ‘A’ game, but once again fell just short of a major upset. Murray overcomes a five point deficit in the final two minutes thanks in part to crucial missed free-throws by the Governors to force the extra five minutes. In the OT, Murray is perfect from the line, and never trails on their way to a 7-point win.
Morehead State 59, Jacksonville State 70
Jacksonville State shoots 66% from the floor, and 6-11 from 3-point range in a big win at home. Jacksonville State starts the game on an 11-0 run, and never lets the Eagles back into the game. Morehead State committed 25 turnovers, leading head coach Sean Woods to comment, “I’m going to make these guys pay for these turnovers when we get back…They have to value the ball.”
Eastern Kentucky 81, Southeast Missouri 72
Five Colonels score in double-figures, enough to overcome a career-high 27 points from Corey Wilford. Eastern Kentucky trailed by as much as five in the second half, but slowly pulled away to break a two game losing streak. The Redhawks have now lost three straight games, and seven of their last eight.
Eastern Illinois 45, SIU Edwardsville 49
The Cougars overcome a 10 point deficit in the final 11:29 to take over second place in the OVC West. A Jerome Jones three-point shot gave SIUE the lead with 55 seconds to play, and free throws by Derian Shaffer and Mark Yelovich are enough to seal the win. Both teams held to 36% shooting in the defensive struggle.
Tennessee Tech 52, Belmont 74
The Bruins get off to a slow start, but use a series of runs in the second half to pull away from the Golden Eagles. Ian Clark is held to just 13 points, but is one of four Bruins in double-figures. Jud Dillard adds another double-double, but turnovers and 38% shooting as a team prove too much to overcome.
Three Point Shot
- There is no doubt in my mind that if Austin Peay played the entire season the way they’ve played Murray State in their two games, there’s no way the Governors would be at the bottom of the league. Their defense still cost them in the end, but it was far from the porous mess we’ve see far too often. Having Jerome Clyburn back in the lineup will be a big help to the Governors, but I’m not sure given their schedule down the stretch if it’s going to be enough for the Governors to have much hope of making it to Nashville.
- Morehead State appears to be a much different team away from home. I’ll even go so far to say they play more undisciplined when they’re away from Johnson Arena. Turnovers and fouls, two of their biggest issues this season, have been much more apparent in road games, like the two they played this week. The competition has something to do with it, sure, but the Eagles are winless in true road games this year. I don’t think that bodes well for them when OVC Tournament time comes around.
- I started this discussion on Twitter and OVC Boards last night, but I’m come to the conclusion that Mike DiNunno is the most polarizing player in the league. EKU fans seem to love him, his opponents despise him, and even the radio guy for SEMO made it clear he wasn’t too happy with the senior guard last night. There’s no doubt he’s a confident player, and that often rubs people the wrong way. So does taunting the fans when you’re on the road, as multiple accounts have him doing in the past few weeks.
Player of the Night: Tarvin Gaines, Jacksonville State. The senior forward scored 23 points on 8-9 shooting from the field in the Gamecocks win over Morehead State. Gaines also had three steals, although Morehead was giving those away just for showing up on Saturday.
Player of the Night in a loss: Corey Wilford, Southeast Missouri. He really did his part, with 27 points, and hitting all seven of his free throws on the night. Just not enough stops as the Redhawks give up 80 points for the second time in three games. In the other game, they gave up 78.
Unsung Hero: Mason Leggett, Jacksonville State. Leggett didn’t score a single point, going 0-2 from the field in 35 minutes. But the senior guard dished out 8 assists, and committed just two turnovers. That’s an assist-to-turnover ratio you’ll take in a heartbeat.
Team Trending Upwards: Murray State. Latreze Mushatt is back and making an impact, and the Racers are getting good minutes from two of their freshman. They’re still struggling to hit shots, but if that problem can fix itself, Murray State is looking like a possible tournament title contender again.
Team Trending Downwards: Morehead State. This week was a chance for them to insert themselves into the East Division race. Instead, they’ve fallen farther behind. A bye in the OVC Tournament in March seems pretty unlikely now.