I thought about calling today’s “Morning After” the “trolling SEMO” edition, but it kind of feels like what the OVC did to the Redhawks. Their situation went from not very good to very much not good, as all the teams ahead of them they need to slip up…didn’t.
But the bigger story from last night: where has the defense gone? It’s becoming a disturbing theme across the league.
Last night’s recaps
SIUE 72, Murray State 82
The Cougars jumped out to an early lead, but left their defense in Edwardsville. Murray State shoots 75% from the floor in the first half, cooling off to 55% on the game. Murray wins despite hitting just three 3-pointers on the night, thanks in part to pounding the offensive glass. The Racers weren’t threatened late despite not hitting a shot in the last 4:37 of the game. Jarvis Williams notches another double-double, with a 19-12 night. The win secures the 27th straight winning season for the Racers. SIUE back to .500 in the conference, but still No. 2 in the West.
Eastern Kentucky 66, Tennessee Tech 72
Speaking of defenses that didn’t show up on the road, EKU allows the Golden Eagles to shoot 56% on the night, as the Golden Eagles lead wire-to-wire to top the Colonels. TTU jumped out to a 21-5 advantage, and EKU could never climb all the way back. Despite being down all game, Eastern Kentucky was within three with 2:04 remaining, but TTU would score on a layup, followed by a foul on a defensive rebounding to help salt the game. Tennessee Tech is now just half a game back of the Colonels for fourth, and the final single-bye in the OVC Tournament. TTU heads to Richmond in two weeks.
Eastern Illinois 83, Austin Peay 88
Reggie Smith sits for a “violation of team rules,” (uh oh?) as does Chris Olivier, (serious uh oh) Alex Austin, (minor uh oh) Keenan Anderson and Donald Moore. On the floor, Austin Peay survives a 32-point effort from Sherman Blandford for the narrow win. Austin Peay led 80-67 late, but EIU hits four of their 11 three-pointers on the night within 37 seconds to pull within three with 31-seconds to play. But the Governors much maligned free-throw shooting comes through in the end, as Austin Peay goes 6-6 from the charity stripe to close out a huge win. Travis Betran and Ed Dyson combine for 47 points, and 12-15 shooting from the field, as Austin Peay shoots 57% on the night.
Morehead State 69, Jacksonville State 67
A wild finish in Jacksonville. Down four, Undra Mitchem hits a layup with 12 seconds left to cut the deficit to two. JSU gets the ball back, but Grant White misses a layup, then Mitchem misses a pair of free-throws with one second left as the Eagles survive on the road. Drew Kelly led the Eagles with 19 points on 7-11 shooting from the field. In a rarity tonight, neither team shot above 55%, or even 45% from the field.
Tennessee State 71, Belmont 73
M.J. Rhett scored just 10 points, but pulls down 19 rebounds, as the Tigers upset bid comes up short against the cross-town Bruins. As that number would suggest, the Tigers dominated the glass, allowing them to stay close despite shooting just 42% and turning the ball over 15 times on the night. J.J. Mann led the Bruins with 21 points, including two in the closing minutes to help seal the victory for the OVC leaders.
Player of the Night: M.J. Rhett, Tennessee State. Again, 19 rebounds. 19! Sure, his team didn’t win, and he didn’t shoot particularly well from the floor, but that’s a stat line worth celebrating.
Player of the Night in a win: Ed Dyson, Austin Peay. The 24 points, and 6-7 shooting from the field are nice, as were the 11 rebounds. We’ll look past the 58% shooting at the charity stripe and instead note that his only miss was a three-point attempt. He had three of those, by the way.
Unsung Hero: Shirmane Thomas, Tennessee Tech. The freshman is averaging just three points on the year, but put up 10, helped by 5-7 shooting from the free-throw line, in the Golden Eagles win.
Teams Trending Upward: Tennessee Tech, Austin Peay. To tell you how tight the OVC is right now, TTU’s win sends the Golden Eagles from the bubble into a legitimate argument for a bye in the OVC Tournament. Austin Peay gets a bit more separation from SEMO, and could put the nail in the Redhawks coffin in two weeks.
Teams Trending Downward: Southeast Missouri, Jacksonville State, Eastern Kentucky. The first two teams on the list didn’t get a lot of help in their bids to make it to Nashville. EKU’s defense is really starting to become a bigger problem. They’re lost two straight, allowing Morehead State and Tennessee Tech, neither of which are exactly offensive juggernauts, to shoot 58% and 56% respectively. Size is becoming a major issue for the Colonels, and there’s not a lot you can do to fix that in February.