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Here’s what you need to know from the Wednesday/Thursday matchups in the OVC:

 

Belmont continues to bring out the best in opposing offenses:

Oh, you pretty things. The Racers shoot 62.5% in the first half, 51.9% for the game (eight points above their season average) but a long second-half scoring drought does in Murray in the Curb. This game played out similarly to the Bruins wins over EIU and SEMO earlier in the year: opposing teams keep pace with Belmont early, but struggle in the second half while the Bruins just keep on keepin’ on. Despite Murray State’s high shooting percentage, Belmont’s defense did force 16 turnovers, which they turned into 17 points.

Evan Bradds (pictured above) continues to be spectacular, and has to be an OVC player of the year frontrunner. Bradds posted another double-double tonight, scoring 23-points on 9-12 shooting, and pulling down 10 rebounds. Craig Bradshaw was just average on the offensive end — and the Bruins still cruised down the stretch. That’s a testament to just how deep this Bruins team can be, and if they continue to get double-digit efforts from guys like Mack MercerTaylor Barnette, and Kevin McClain, there are few teams in the OVC that can compete with that firepower over 40 minutes.

Pressure was clearly pushing down on the Racers during that second half drought and Wayne Langston wasn’t giving love that one more chance. Langston finished the game with a rare “6” in the foul column, being called for a technical foul seconds after fouling out. Losing Langston with more than 8 minutes to play in the game, and losing forward Brion Sanchious to an apparent ankle injury (which may keep him out of Saturday’s game against Tennessee State) curbed Murray State’s best offense, getting the ball to the post. The Racers still had the edge on the glass — but there really weren’t enough misses for them to take advantage.

there are few teams in the OVC that can compete with that firepower over 40 minutes.

Burak Eslik hit his first seven three's in a loss to Morehead State. Over his first five conference games, Eslik is 14-25 (56%) from three-point range

Burak Eslik hit his first seven three’s in a loss to Morehead State. Over his first five conference games, Eslik is 14-25 (56%) from three-point range. Photo taken in game against Arkansas State on November 13th, 2015

“You’ve really made the grade,” Burak Eslik:

…but the rest of the Cougars were “sitting in a tin can, far above the world.” Eslik went superhuman in the opening minutes against Morehead State, scoring 22 points of 7 of 7 three-point shooting in the opening 6:40 of the game. But from there, SIUE scored just 13 points the final 13:20 of the half, and watched their 17-point lead come crashing down, before eventually falling in overtime to Morehead State. The Cougars are now 0-5 in conference play, and they’ll need quite a rally in the next six weeks to have any chance of making the OVC tournament.

 

In headlines I never expected to write: Eastern Illinois outguns Eastern Kentucky in a shootout:

The Panthers are clearly going through some “Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes.” EIU scored 97 points behind 11 three’s and 58.6% shooting in a win on their home floor. Eastern Kentucky’s offense was no slouch either, as it has been all season, shooting 55.2% from the floor, and hitting 11 three’s of their own. EKU’s defense has been “high-risk, high reward,” relying on turnovers to spur fast break points, but giving up some open looks as a result. The Panthers turned the ball over just nine times, marking on the second time all year EKU has forced fewer than 10.

This is a big win for the Panthers: if EIU and EKU find themselves on the tournament bubble, (and the first few weeks show it’s not out of the question) Eastern Illinois now holds the one-on-one tiebreaker over the Colonels.

Demetrius McReynolds

Tennessee Tech loses in a near unimaginable way:

I wrote about this in detail yesterday, but Tennessee Tech’s offense is playing at historically great levels. Too bad their defense isn’t. The Golden Eagles find a way to lose at UT Martin despite shooting 62.5% from the field. Credit the Skyhawks for hitting 16 three’s (16-25, 64%) and hitting 15-20 from the free-throw line in the second half to seal a strong win in their home floor.

 

Other notes from the midweek games:

  • It’s hard to criticize a coach for suspending players who step out of line, but this season has turned into misery for Redhawks fans. Former head coach Dickey Nutt was fired after a 13-17 (7-9) campaign, mostly because of the feeling the team had underperformed. This wasn’t expected to be a rebuilding project on par with Tennessee State or SIUE, but that’s what it’s become. Credit Rick Ray for expecting All of the Young Dudes to do things the right way, but he’s not exactly building a lot of goodwill with fans in his first season with double-digit losses to Jacksonville State
  • Congrats, by the way, to JSU, for winning their first road game in their last 23 tries.
  • Morehead State is about as quiet a 3-1 team as you can be in conference play. They might not have had the answer for Eslik, but they shut down the rest of the team, and made timely shots in overtime to get the win. The Murray game, at least rebounding wise, seems like an aberration, and the Eagles stout defense is making up for their way-too-frequent struggles on the offensive end.
    • Speaking of that overtime game — how long does it take to determine whether a shot got off before the shot clock expired? A close game came to a screeching halt, and killed all momentum and flow to an exciting OT battle. I like to give referees the benefit of the doubt, but those long reviews have to end. Simple solution: put them on a clock. Can’t make a decision within two minutes? Whatever was called on the court stands.
  • Coming into conference play, I was ready to write the redemption story of Austin Peay. They’ve still got a chance to turn things around against the West Division, but the first few weeks of conference play haven’t shown that they can be heroes, just for one day. Chris Horton is still an all-conference talent, (when he can stay out of early foul trouble) but the team has to find consistent help on the offensive side if they’re going to make it back to Nashville for the OVC Tournament.

how long does it take to determine whether a shot got off before the shot clock expired?

 

Tweetable Recaps:

TTU 90, UTM 96: Defense optional. TTU shoots 62.5% from field, but can’t contain Skyhawks three-point shooting. Five Skyhawks score 15+

JSU 74, SEMO 60: Redhawks shorthanded due to suspensions, still winless in #OVC. Tucker leads Gamecocks with 15, JSU +8 on glass

MURR 73, BELM 81: Bruins charge ahead on 27-6 second-half run, Bradds 23, remain undefeated in conference. Racers’ Sanchious injures ankle

AP 52, TSU 66: 11 Tigers score in balanced offensive effort, remained unbeaten in #OVC. Horton 7-11, rest of Govs’ 12-45 (26.7%) shooting.

EKU 85, EIU 97: McReynolds double-double (27 pts, 10 rbs) lead hot-shooting Panthers. Mayo with 23 points (9-12 shooting) in loss.

MORE 70, SIUE 67, OT: Cougars get career night from Eslik (40 pts), miss massive opportunity to pick up first #OVC win. Eagles 3-1 in #OVC

 

Conference-Only Ratings:

These numbers may look significantly different from our last ratings, because for the first time we’re only using stats from OVC games. These ratings will be especially vulnerable to wild swings over the next few weeks.

 ShootingReboundingBall ControlDefense
Austin Peay79847881
Belmont100689983
Eastern Illinois858610056
Eastern Kentucky87848666
Jacksonville State62748572
Morehead State698910093
Murray State72999881
SIUE71808369
Southeast Missouri67747764
Tennessee State79858094
Tennessee Tech100668771
UT Martin906710073
Calculated using statistics through 1/14

 

Final David Bowie reference count: 8. RIP.


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OVC Ball
Predicting the OVC race…in mid-December

2016-17 Basketball Standings

OVCOverall

EAST

Belmont8-014-4
Morehead State6-310-12
Tennessee Tech5-39-14
Jacksonville State5-413-11
Tennessee State4-413-8
Eastern Kentucky2-69-14

WEST

UT Martin5-315-8
Murray State5-311-11
SEMO5-310-13
Austin Peay3-57-15
Eastern Illinois1-79-12
SIUE0-85-17
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