Seeds held on the tournament’s opening day, but the two lower seeds hold quite a lot of momentum heading into day two. Could upsets rule the day on Thursday?
(5) Tennessee Tech
17-16 (9-7 OVC)
(4) Morehead State
20-12 (10-6 OVC)
(6) Southeast Missouri
18-14 (8-8 OVC)
(3) Eastern Kentucky
21-9 (10-5 OVC)
(5) Tennessee Tech v (4) Morehead State
Teams split season series
With two weeks left in the season, there was no team hotter than Morehead State. The Eagles had just rattled off five straight wins, and were on their way to Murray for a matchup with the West Division leaders. Since then? Things haven’t gone to plan for Sean Woods’ club, who enter the tournament on a three-game losing streak.
Their quarterfinal opponents? The same one that beat them less than one week ago to finish out the regular season. Tennessee Tech put on a rare offensive showcase in Morehead, scoring 91 points in a win over the Eagles. Dwan Caldwell scored a career high 29 points, thanks in part to a 15-15 performance from the free-throw line.
The Eagles have struggled defensively in their three-game slide, and much like the Golden Eagles, Morehead State’s offense isn’t known for being explosive.
Tennessee Tech is on the opposite end of the momentum scale. The Golden Eagles have won four of five, and seven of their last nine heading into tonight. But it hasn’t just been their defense, their oft-maligned offense has risen to the occasion, not only against Morehead but also in a win on the road at UT Martin sparking their latest streak.
TTU hasn’t relied on the three in either of their matchups against Morehead State, instead electing to push the ball inside. The difference between their win and loss is a stark difference in effectiveness. When TTU beat Morehead State, the Golden Eagles shot 67.6% on two-point shots. In their loss? 35.7%
In both games, Morehead State has had the edge in rebounding and turnovers, and been effective getting to the free-throw line. Tonight, like the first two games, it could likely come down to their ability to defend Tennessee Tech.
(6) Southeast Missouri v (3) Eastern Kentucky
EKU won season series 1-0
Revenge can often be a powerful motivator. On the first day of February, Eastern Kentucky’s Glenn Cosey hit a 30-foot shot at the buzzer to send SEMO to their fifth conference loss.
There’s probably not any team the Redhawks would rather face today. And there’s likely no team the Colonels would rather avoid than streaking Southeast Missouri.
Here’s something that’s been lost in all of the buzz about the Redhawks, though: EKU enters the tournament on their own four game win streak. Much like SEMO’s streak, three of EKU’s four wins were against teams that didn’t qualify for the OVC Tournament.
In their first matchup, Eastern Kentucky led through much of the first half, but came out of the gate flat in the second half, watching the Redhawks build a ten-point lead with 4:47 to play. But Cosey seemingly single-handedly led the Colonels back, before hitting the game winner to send SEMO on the long road back to Cape Girardeau with a loss.
There were a few anomalies in that game in Richmond: first, the Redhawks shot just nine three-point attempts, choosing instead to exploit their size advantage on the inside, especially during their second half run. SEMO was, quite surprisingly, outrebounded by the Colonels, which isn’t exactly in line with the teams’ season averages.
The goals of each team are clear, as they’re built to exploit the other’s weaknesses: EKU wants to attack from the perimeter, and force turnover, while SEMO wants to attack from the paint.
Whatever happens, one team’s streak, and likely season, ends tonight in Nashville.