The story of last night: It’s hard to win on the road in conference play. That’s not just conjecture. A late Racers rally was the only think preventing a home-team sweep, and in conference play, home teams are 20-10. Charleston, Illinois has somewhat become a destination for road wins though, as the Panthers fall to just 1-3 on their home floor in the OVC this year. Murray, a team that didn’t win a single road game in non-conference play, is becoming road warriors, moving to 2-0 on the road.
But probably the most “surprising” home win was in Edwardsville. It’s not that SIUE beat Austin Peay — they were just one-point underdogs — but they rallied from a late deficit, closing the game on a 13-1 run in the final 2:11. The Cougars now have home wins against Eastern Kentucky and Austin Peay, and tomorrow host a Murray State team that looked vulnerable at EIU.
It’s expected the Cougars will be without Michael Messer for that game, but if they a way to win, the “Vad Pad” (which is much easier to say than Vadalabene Center) is becoming a tough play to play, which is bad news for the West Division.
Speaking of bad news for the West, if the OVC Tournament started today (I know, it’s too early to be using that term, but stick with me here) the West would not only just have three teams, but the one, seven, and eight seeds. A dominant Murray State is very bad news for the Division that, as a whole, is struggling against the East. So is a struggling TSU, because if they continue to lose, they could inflate the win totals for teams in the East.
If it weren’t for Jacksonville State’s ineligibility last season, a similar split would have occurred.
For all intensive purposes, finishing in the top three in your division guarantees you a spot in Nashville, whereas fourth can be a bit of a wildcard. So here’s my question: Is Southeast Missouri one of the three best teams in the West? After an early run, their offense was all but stopped in it’s tracks last night at Morehead. They’re now 1-4 in conference play, although they’ve yet to play the other three teams likely to be fighting for the third spot. But is this team better than SIUE, or Eastern Illinois?
I’m not sold that they are.
Nothing happened last night that we haven’t really seen already. The defense allowed Morehead State, one of the least efficient OVC offenses, to score 80 points, averaging 1.08 points a possession, 10% above their average. Jarekious Bradley was amazing, Tyler Stone was alright if unspectacular, and the rest of the team barely showed up on the stat sheet.
They have played a tough (in OVC terms) schedule, which does get easier. This team is in a position to make a bit of a rally. But Eastern Illinois and SIUE continue to get better, game in and game out. Can SEMO sweep either one? And they can they avoid a “bad loss” along the way?
The good news for Southeast is they’re just 1.5 games out of third in the West, currently held by SIUE.
We’ve spent a lot of time talking about the West, when the game with the most hype going in happened in the East. Eastern Kentucky is very much back in the division race with a much needed win over Belmont. The Colonels much-maligned defense forced 20 Bruins turnovers, which has been a problem when Belmont loses. The Bruins struggled to shoot to the three, and shot just 50% inside the arc. (You may remember I said why that was important in an earlier Daily 3)
I’m impressed more with how Eastern Kentucky won, than by that they won. EKU clearly wanted to keep Belmont out of the paint, and did a fairly good job doing so, as the Bruins took 30 three’s, and just 18 two’s. They were able to overcome a horrible rebounding night, (-14? To Belmont? Even with all their misses, that’s not great) shot the ball incredibly well, and defended!
It’s also awesome to see the reported attendance: 5,200. This isn’t even a “rivalry,” but fans showed up in droves to support a team in a must-win situation.
The East race has really heated up, with four teams now within a game of Belmont. Game on.