If you ask most OVC fans who are the favorites to win the conference, you’ll likely hear three teams: Murray State, Belmont, and Eastern Kentucky.
Yet at the end of the night, there’s a chance that none of those teams will be sitting atop the Ohio Valley Conference standings. In the far corner of the conference, Morehead State has a chance to stake their claim as one of the OVC’s elite.
“This is going to let us know exactly where we are,” head coach Sean Woods told ABC 36 earlier this week. “Belmont’s one of the top teams in our conference, and we gotta go in there; that would be a great, great win on the road, because they’re one of the toughest teams, especially at home, to beat. So this is a challenge for us, and a great opportunity to beat a great team.”
Morehead’s status as an overlooked team is a conglomeration of multiple factors, geography being among them. It’s hard to get to Morehead, Kentucky, and you’re not going to drive past it on accident. But the on court play also plays a role. You’re not going to see many Sportscenter highlights from the Eagles, and that’s not just from the lack of television coverage. Morehead State is a defense-first, up tempo, hard-nosed basketball team. They’re great at what they do, but it’s often done without flash.
They’re not a great scoring team, something that’s far too often celebrated over getting stops, and forcing turnovers.
So this is a challenge for us, and a great opportunity to beat a great team.
Non-Morehead State fans are more likely to be able their top rebounder, Chad Posthumus, before they can recall their top scorer, Angelo Warner. And that’s sad given that Warner is fifth in the OVC in scoring, and third in minutes played in the OVC, on a team that likes to pressure, and likes to run.
It doesn’t help that the one story everyone does know Morehead State, and head coach Sean Woods for, is far from flattering.
It also doesn’t help that they’ve let one opportunity to get noticed this season already slip through their fingers.
“It wasn’t a good night for us,” Woods told the Morehead News after a 76-65 loss to rival Eastern Kentucky. “They played solid enough and made us pay for every mistake we made defensively.”
That night, the Eagles held EKU to 44% shooting from the floor. But Eastern Kentucky threw up 27 three-point attempts, and nearly matched Morehead State on the offensive glass. Glenn Cosey went a perfect 11-11 from the free-throw line, Corey Walden 6-6, overshadowing the Eagles 25-27 performance from the charity stripe, by far their best of the year. Morehead State forced just nine turnovers in that game, while turning it over 20 times themselves.
“We just couldn’t consistently make plays down the stretch, Warner told the paper. ‘”[We] turned the ball over too much and they made plays on our turnovers. It cost us big time.”
Tonight represents a second chance. A win over the Bruins puts the Eagles atop the East Division, and possibly atop the OVC depending on how Murray State fares against Tennessee Tech.
A loss simply puts the Eagles back where they were: a really dangerous team, just too far removed from the center.