Defense optional? Try defense non-existent. The OVC has emerged from finals week with a hangover, as five of six take losses, including some true headscratchers, led by the “favorites” in both divisions.
Eastern Kentucky 61, #4 Wisconsin 86
This was on some pundit’s radar as a potential scare for the undefeated Badgers. That didn’t turn out to be the case. EKU struggled from three-point range, and were decimated by the larger Wisconsin team on the interior. If you’re looking for bright spots: EKU hit all of their free-throws (there were just nine, though) and only turned over the ball nine times.
Jacksonville State 46, Dartmouth 76
Oh boy. The defense was terrible again. The offense was worse. Focusing on the defense part for a moment, since James Green took over the program, the Gamecocks have never had a defense that finished worse than sixth in defensive efficiency. The last two season, they finished in the top three. This year? It’s currently 11th, with only SIUE trailing behind. This is shaping up to be a historically bad defense for Green, a man known as being a keen defensive mind. Dartmouth shot 52% from the field in the win.
Belmont 72, South Dakota State 85
Don’t fault the offense. Belmont hits 10-21 from three-point range, but South Dakota State hits 57% from the field to upset the Bruins. All five Jackrabbit starters play 30+ minutes, and finish the game with double-digit scoring. Craig Bradshaw was back in the lineup today, scoring a team-high 17 points, but the Bruins also turn over the ball 16 times in the loss, something that’s becoming a more persistent issue.
SIU Edwardsville 75, IPFW 95
I’m turning this recap over to Twitter, as this tweet from an SIUE fan pretty much sums it up:
@OVCBall so SIUe has given up 18 points in under 5 minutes to start the 2nd half. That's impressive. In a bad way.
— Jonathan Shank (@jonathanshank) December 15, 2013
IPFW hit 12-three’s on the night, got to the free-throw line, and hit 65% from inside the three-point arc. Once again, the Cougars offense wasn’t bad. But with the exception of the Mastadons 15 turnovers, SIUE couldn’t get in their way. At all.
Liberty 71, Austin Peay 77
A three-pointer by Ed Dyson midway through the second half sparked a key 10-0 run, to break open a close game, and the Governors held on for a six-point win at home. Travis Betran scored 23 points on 6-11 shooting, Chris Horton added another 21, and Austin Peay manages to mitigate their 63% free-throw shooting. Demarius Smith was the only Governors starter not scoring in double-figures, but when you dish out 12 assists, you can be excused for not putting up a lot of points. The Governors struggled on the boards against the bigger Liberty team, and struggled to contain Antwan Burrus, who finished with a game-high 27 points.
UIC 75, Southeast Missouri 69
Of all the bad loses today, you could make an argument this was the worst: It was on SEMO’s home court, the Redhawks came out sleepwalking, pulled back within a basket multiple times, but couldn’t take the lead once. The Flames open the game on a 16-0 run, but the Redhawks slowly widdled it down to five at the half despite ice cold shooting from behind the arc. SEMO was within one-point five times in the second half, but couldn’t get a stop to have a chance at the lead. Jarekious Bradley had another great night, scoring 28 points, but Nino Johnson did not, scoring a single point in 24 minutes of play.
Player of the Night: Chris Horton, Austin Peay. I mentioned his scoring, but not his 11 rebounds, or that he shot 8-10 from the floor on the night. Plus, as I mentioned in the recap, he was going against taller Liberty players most of the night, and still found a way to be highly effective.
Co-Player of the Night in a Loss: Glenn Cosey, Eastern Kentucky. On a night the Colonels couldn’t find the bottom of the bucket, Cosey manages 21 points on 7-14 shooting.
Co-Player of the Night in a Loss: Jarekious Bradley, SEMO. Bradley has the OVC newcomer of the year award all but locked up. Add nine rebounds to his point total, more than Tyler Stone and Johnson combined.
Unsung Hero: Darrian Gray, SEMO. I rarely give this to a team who had, in my opinion, the worst loss of the night, but Gray played one of his better games in a Redhawks uniform. Gray came off the bench, but ended up playing 36 minutes in the loss, scoring 18 points and pulling down 7 rebounds, better numbers than the majority of the starters.
Team Trending Upwards: No one. Austin’s Peay win was good, but not amazing over a so-so Liberty team in Clarksville. There wasn’t another team even in considerations.
Teams Trending Downward: SIUE, Jacksonville State, and SEMO. I can’t pick just one. The first two were atrocious for the vast majority of 40 minutes on the defensive side of the ball, and SEMO’s loss makes it hard for me to shake the feeling that the Redhawks seem to always under-perform their expectations and talent level.