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Here’s what you need to know from Saturday in the Ohio Valley Conference:

 

Tennessee Tech is 4-0 in the OVC for the first time since 2005: …a year that saw TTU win their last Ohio Valley Conference regular season title. Worth noting: the Golden Eagles also won in Murray that year, much like they have this year. Torrance Rowe (pictured above) was simply spectacular against the Governors, scoring a game-high 27 points on 10-17 shooting, (and 6-11 shooting from three-point range) and still managed to dish out a game-high seven assists. TTU overcame 15 turnovers, and being outrebounded by seven to get their second road win in conference play. Last season, Tennessee Tech got just two road wins for the entire season.

What’s interesting is how much better TTU has been shooting the basketball. The Golden Eagles lead the league in effective Field Goal Percentage, (eFG%) three-point shooting, and two-point shooting, and are also getting to the line more than any other team in the OVC. This is a very different Golden Eagles team than the ones we’ve seen the last three seasons that struggled to make shots. It’s not just Rowe either. Ryan Martin, a senior transfer who set out last season, is shooting 53% from the floor on the season, while Aleska Jugovic and Hakeem Rogers are both shooting 40% or better from deep in conference play.

Before the Cookeville faithful get too excited, it’s worth noting that the four teams they’ve beaten are a combined 4-10 in conference play, and only Murray State has a .500 record on the season. They’re winning the games they should be winning, and getting road wins is never easy, but the true test really begins in two weeks when TTU makes the “Death Valley” road swing to Eastern Kentucky and Morehead State.

This is a very different Golden Eagles team than the ones we’ve seen the last three seasons

 

Tennessee State’s shaky late, but stay undefeated in conference play: SIUE trailed late, but surged in the final minutes behind a 17-2 run to pull within a bucket in the final minute. The defense continues to be the Tigers strong point — holding SIUE to 17-47 (36.2%) shooting from the field, and to just 14 points in the paint. But TSU had few answers for the Cougars’ Burak Eslik, a 34% three-point shooter on the year who hit 5-6 from deep against the Tigers on his way to a game-high 23 points.

Burak Eslik, who hit 5-6 from three-point range in a loss to Tennessee State. Photo from game against Portland State on December 12th, 2015.

Burak Eslik, who hit 5-6 from three-point range in a loss to Tennessee State. Photo from game against Portland State on December 12th, 2015.

Much like Tech, things get tougher going forward. TSU’s opponents combined conference record to this point? 1-11.

 

Belmont uses big second-half to run away from Eastern Illinois: The final score would likely lead you to believe that the Bruins dominated against EIU, but that wasn’t the case for the first 22 minutes. The game was tied at half, and Belmont head coach Rick Byrd used his second timeout less than two minutes into the second half after a mini-run from EIU. But the Panthers ran well out of steam, and the Bruins kept hitting three’s, 15 in total on the game. Evan Bradds scored 22 points on just 5-7 shooting from the field, thanks to 12-14 free-throw shooting.

 

It’s looking much more likely that five teams from the East make the OVC Tournament: The East division is dominating the West in these early conference battles, which is a big deal for one reason: tiebreakers. These teams will only play once, and the first tiebreaker at the end of the season is head-to-head record.

Given the way conference play has started, it’s looking increasingly likely that it’s five teams playing for the eighth and final seed in OVC play: Austin Peay, (who fall in this category due to their two home losses) Eastern Illinois, SIUE, Jacksonville State, and Southeast Missouri.

Games of note on this front: SIUE’s loss to JSU, EIU’s win over the Gamecocks, and as just mentioned, Austin Peay’s two losses at home. Southeast Missouri gets Jacksonville State on Wednesday at the Show Me Center in Cape Girardeau.

 

Other Notes from Saturday:

  • Could UTM hit any more extremes? Against EKU on Thursday, the Skyhawks hit 58% of their shots, but turned the ball over 19 times. Against Morehead State, they fix the turnover issue with just five, but hit only 30% of their shots.
  • It’s early in the conference campaign, but Jacksonville State’s offense is on track to be historically bad. Their eFG% in conference play is the fifth lowest of any OVC team in the last 10-years, and their rate of getting to the free-throw line is even worse. They aren’t even protecting the ball all that well, either.
Rick Ray is off to a rocky start in his first year at the helm of the Redhawks

Rick Ray is off to a rocky start in his first year at the helm of the Redhawks

  • When three players left Southeast Missouri’s program after the first semester, I though their rocky road, at least as far as player discipline was concerned, was over. Not so much. Rick Ray had suspended three players, starting point guard Eric McGill, along with Jaylin Stewart and Robby Dosier for Saturday’s game for a “violation of team rules,” according to the Southeast Missourian. SEMO played just seven guys, and things got even dicier after three fouled out in the second half. Had the game gone much longer, we might have had another four-on-five scenario involving an OVC team. (TSU finished a game with four players two years ago against SIU)
  • Murray State’s win Saturday moves them back to .500, but their quest to get back above that mark goes through undefeated Belmont and Tennessee State on the road. The Racers have a well known streak of winning seasons dating back now more than a quarter-century — but it’s been in jeopardy much later in the season not all that long ago: in former head coach Billy Kennedy‘s first season, 2006-07 the Racers didn’t get above .500 for good until a win over Rider on February 17th.

 

Tweetable Recaps:

SEMO 69, EKU 88: Reischell scores 21, EKU dominant in paint in win. SEMO 0-4 in OVC play for first time since 2009.

EIU 59, Belmont 85: Bradds with 22 points, Bradshaw hits four of Bruins 15 3’s. A.J. Riley has third 20+ game of season in loss.

UTM 58, Morehead 64: Balanced scoring, 17 offensive rebounds push Eagles to win. Howard with 22 points, 14 rebounds for Skyhawks.

JSU 54, Murray 69: Another double-double for Langston, Racers stiffle JSU, holding Gamecocks to 33% shooting (9-35 inside three-point arc)

TTU 72, Austin Peay 66: Rowe’s 27 leads late TTU surge to win on the road. Jugovic three with :13 remaining seals fourth-straight win.

SIUE 60, TSU 63: Late Cougars run falls short. Tigers overcome poor shooting night by shutting down SIUE inside. Eslik’s 23 not enough.

 

OVC Rating Changes:

These are full season ratings, excluding games against Division I opponents. Conference-only ratings will debut this week.

 

SHOOTING REBOUNDING BALL CONTROL DEFENSE
AP 84 89 (+1) 66 (+2) 74 (-1)
BELM 97 71 80 (+2) 77 (+1)
EIU 73 (-2) 67 (+1) 74 (+1) 76 (-1)
EKU 96 70 (+1) 75 75 (+1)
JSU 68 (-1) 67 (-1) 88 (-1) 76
MORE 74 93 (+1) 73 83 (-1)
MURR 71 (+1) 81 (+2) 85 (+2) 81 (+2)
SIUE 67 84 (-1) 85 (-1) 70 (+1)
SEMO 65 77 70 (-2) 75
TSU 81 (-1) 84 72 (-1) 84
TTU 87 (+2) 76 (-1) 78 (+2) 81
UTM 72 (-3) 79 (-2) 76 (+5) 82

 


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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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