In their last three games, Murray State has dispatched the only other remaining (at the time) undefeated team in conference play, rid some demons by finally winning in Edwardsville, and rallied to beat the defending Ohio Valley Conference Tournament champions in overtime, a team that beat the Racers the last time they played at “the bank.”
Three games, three great storylines, against three challenging opponents.
Anyone care to make it four?
This time round, it a rising 5-2 UT Martin squad, winners of five of their last six that roll into the CFSB center — and the only other team remaining in the Ohio Valley Conference that is in control of their fate to earn a potential No. 1 seed in March’s OVC Tournament.
A Racers win today, and it’s there’s to lose: literally.
Despite their close proximity, few are quick to call this game a ‘rivalry,’ for how can there be a rivalry when one team has so thoroughly dominated their history: The Skyhawks have won just once in Murray, ever.
But that history is virtually unknown to this Skyhawks team, much as all of UT Martin’s basketball past. That’s because most of this team, from the head coach down, have never been Skyhawks until this year. Not only are they well on pace to return to Nashville for the OVC Tournament, they’re likely to exceed the school’s best conference win total since last winning an OVC Title.
To them, ‘history’ doesn’t mean much. Because their history is only 20 games long.
Of their 13 wins this year, six have come on the road. Masked by their tempo, the Skyhawks are one of the most efficient teams offensively in the league, and in OVC play hold their opponents to the fewest second-chances, and don’t give up free points at the charity stripe. They’re three-point sharpshooters, hitting 42% from deep against the OVC, even better than Murray, and the other 10 teams as well. And they’ve done it despite losing one of the league’s stalwart forwards to injury, and a sixth man to transfer.
..and rivalry or not, their fans will almost certainly make the short drive north on a cool Saturday evening.
As long as there’s a zero in the conference loss column, and the win streak gets longer, every game moving forward is about the Racers climb back to greatness.
But that only makes team relish the chance to spoil that even more.
Murray State head coach Steve Prohm always talks about his team going 1-0 each day.
…but make no mistake. Some days, going 1-0 means more than others. It would mean more to UT Martin, and their fans, today.
“A disconnect with reality”: Southeast Missouri is currently 3-5 in the OVC, after a loss Thursday at home against SIUE. It’s their third home loss in conference play, and leave the Redhawks dangling in eighth place, the final spot to be eligible for the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament. For the second straight year, SEMO is struggling to meet expectations. According to one player, he feels like they have a target on their backs:
“”Every team knows we have the best talent in the league,” Nino Johnson told the Southeast Missourian. “Every time a team beat us it seems like they won the Super Bowl. They’re extremely happy.”
I’ll allow one of the Southeast Missourian’s writers describe the chaotic scene after SIUE’s win Thursday:
There was little to no celebration tonight from SIUE tonight after beating Southeast. A disconnect with reality.
— Rachel Crader (@RachelCrader) January 30, 2015
This is very much a rivalry: The way things are stacking up right now, EKU and Morehead State are playing for the final single-bye in March’s OVC Tournament. They meet for the first time today, at Morehead. If the Eagles win, they’re have a 2.5 game cushion over the Colonels, which even with EKU’s home-friendly slate in February, is a big gap. The Colonels win? It’s half a game. Interesting note: the road team has won three-straight in the series, and four of the last five.
Back in it?: Austin Peay hosts Southeast Missouri tonight, and a Governors win puts them ahead of the Redhawks in the standings, and in the eight-spot. A loss put the Governors two games in the win-column behind SEMO for 8th. There’s little question the Redhawks are struggling, but this is one both teams really need.
You CAN reverse calls at the monitor: …in certain situations. In case you were watching another game at the time, with just over 14 minutes remaining in the EKU-Murray game Thursday, Racers point guard Cameron Payne was called for an offensive foul after, let’s be honest, a quality acting job by the Colonels’ defender. So quality, in fact, that the referee’s went to the monitor to determine if Payne should have been called for a flagrant foul for throwing an elbow.
After a patented lengthy review by OVC officials, they determined that Payne…didn’t touch anybody. So no foul. Here’s the rule, which is actually new this season, that allowed that change to be made.
When there is a foul called and there may be a flagrant 2 foul for elbow contact above the shoulders of an opponent, permit a monitor review to determine the correct foul and permit the foul call to be changed to a flagrant 1 personal or common foul (including a player control foul ). When, upon review, it is discovered by indisputable evidence that there was no contact at all or that the contact was incidental, the foul call can be changed to no foul. When the officials use the monitor to review a situation that is NOT called on the floor, the only options are Flagrant 2, Flagrant 1 or no foul (when there was no contact).
It shouldn’t have needed what seemed like 10 minutes to make the call. But based on the replays, the correct call was made.
When will Olivier return? Will he, even? Olivier missed Thursday night’s game at UT Martin with mono, and will be out against today. Mono isn’t a “see you in a week,” kind of sickness, it’s more like a “see you in two months,” kind of sickness. And two months from now is..
Depending on the severity, Olivier could return much sooner than that, (2 weeks minimum, I’d wager) but there’s a real possibility that EIU will be without Olivier for their upcoming stretch run.
After their 6-0 start, the Panthers have now dropped three straight. They would likely have to lose out to miss the OVC Tournament and complete a SEMO-esque fall, but a team that looked like a first-round bye lock now looks a lot more vulnerable.
Okay, Tennessee Tech, you’ve almost broke me: After losing at Tennessee State…again, the Golden Eagles need to go 5-2 down the stretch to get to the magic 7-win total. Maybe, MAYBE, if you can go 4-3, and get to 6-10, SEMO will keep losing, and you can squeak into the tournament as a 8-seed. Maybe. But you still have to win more than you lose over the next month, and that starts today against a resurgent Belmont squad.