The first day of college basketball is in the books, and a fairly even if unspectacular start for the Ohio Valley Conference.
Last Night’s Scores
Florida International 63, Eastern Kentucky 83
EKU’s offense gets off to a hot start, hitting 49% from the field, and 9-24 from three-point range. Four Colonels finish in double figures, led by 17 from Glenn Cosey. Eric Stutz doesn’t start after an undisclosed injury, but scores six points and pulls down two rebounds in 13 minutes.
Belmont 87, Lipscomb 83
Closer than expected? The Bruins get double-digit scoring from five players, but struggle at the free throw line, allowing the Bisons to keep the game close down the stretch. J.J. Mann leads all scorers with 21 points, but Lipscomb hits 53% from the field. No surprise: the Bruins were easily beat on the boards. The game remains tight despite Belmont forcing 24 turnovers.
Oakland City 69, Austin Peay 84
This game was closer than the score would indicate. The Governors free-throw woes from their exhibition game bleed into the season, as Austin Peay hits just 20-36 from the charity stripe. Chris Horton pulls down 17 rebounds, and the Governors win despite just 5 points from Travis Betran.
SIUE 65, Arkansas 99
It’s always tough to open against the SEC. Much like the Cougars exhibition game, the starters struggle to score, with Tim Johnson leading the Cougars with 13 points off the bench. SIUE had no answer for the Razorbacks backcourt, as Arkansas hits 8-16 from three-point range on the night, but the Cougars were competitive on the boards. 23 turnovers way too many from the SIUE offense.
Jacksonville State 65, Bradley 72
A slow start to the second half and foul trouble to key starters was too much to overcome for the Gamecocks in a loss to Bradley. JSU held the NCAA’s active scoring leader Walt Lemon Jr. to 6-20 shooting from the floor, but Tyshon Pickett scores a game high 17-points in the win for the Braves. The Gamecocks hit 44% from the field, but just 3-19 from behind the arc.
St. Louis 87, Southeast Missouri 64
Without their two best forwards, and after an expected starter leaves the school on the day of the first game, the Redhawks took a lead into the half before completely running out of steam. JUCO transfer Jarekious Bradley has a huge day in his debut for SEMO, scoring a game-high 22 points, and pulling down 12 rebounds. The shorthanded Redhawks struggle to contain the Billikens big men, as St. Louis shoots 52% in the win.
Murray State 74, Valparaiso 77
Free throws are important! The Racers miss key shots from the charity stripe down the stretch, losing a sloppy game on the road. The teams combine for 77 free throws, as both teams struggled with fouls. Freshman Cameron Payne led the Racers with 21 points, but shot just 6-24 from the field, and 4-10 from three-point range. The good news for Murray: the young squad commits just 10 turnovers, and held Valpo to 43% shooting.
UT Martin 60, Wyoming 78
The Skyhawks also struggle with fouls in their season opener, sending the Cowboys to the free throw line for 40 attempts. With Myles Taylor out of the lineup, UT Martin struggles on offense, hitting just 35% from the field. They do commit just six turnovers, but didn’t have much of an answer on the boards.
Tennessee State 55, Hawaii 85
We knew TSU would likely need time to find their legs on offense. I don’t think anyone expected it to be this bad. The Tigers struggle from the field, struggle to rebound, didn’t defend well, and it ends in a lopsided loss. M.J. Rhett has a double-double in the loss, and Patrick Miller scored 15, but just no where near enough production from the rest of the lineup.
Three Point Shot
- I expand more on this in the First Word for Saturday, but the first day of the college basketball season wasn’t a disaster for the new rules. Murray State and UT Martin need some work on not fouling, but scoring was higher across the board, and there were quite a few games with low foul totals. Still a work in progress, and the foul counts should drop across the league as teams adjust to the change.
- I’m not reading too much into’s Belmont’s tight win. Lipscomb should be improved, and new head coach Casey Alexander knows a thing or two about Byrd’s offense, spending so many years as a Bruins assistant. The offense and defense were solid, the rebounding wasn’t, which is pretty well what we’re expecting from the Bruins this year.
- I am reading a lot into Austin Peay’s struggles with Oakland City. Along with their tight exhibition win, it’s now two tight games against non Division I opponents. If it was just once, I’d call it an aberration and move on. But twice? I’m growing concerned, while also feeling better about putting the Governors as low as I did in my preseason predictions.
Player of the Night: Jarekious Bradley, SEMO. We expect the Redhawks to have great play from their frontcourt once their starters return to the team next week. But if SEMO can get this kind of play from the backcourt as well, watch out. 22 points and 12 rebounds from the 6’5 transfer, while playing 38 minutes. The one concern: turnovers. He committed four in the loss.
Unsung Hero: Marcus Lewis, Eastern Kentucky. With Mike DiNunno gone, Lewis was expected to play an expanded role in the Colonels offense. He’s off to a good start. Lewis hits 7-9 from the field, scoring 16 points as EKU rolls in their season opener.
Teams Trending Upwards: Murray State and Southeast Missouri. The Redhawks competed a lot better than most expected. And while the Racers have a few issues, a very young team competed very well in their first road test. The western division is looking solid through one night.
Teams Trending Downwards: Austin Peay and UT Martin. When I say “the western division is looking solid,” I mean the top half of the division. I’m very curious to see what the Governors do against Division I competition. And while we knew Taylor’s important to Martin, if they’re going to take the next step, they need other players to step up. With him out, now would be a really good time.