OVC Ball Statbox
|19-9 (11-3 OVC)|
|14-15 (5-9 OVC)|
|27/59 (45.8%)||Field Goals||25/65 (38.5%)|
|9/30 (30.0%)||3-Point FG||6/21 (28.6%)|
|23/29 (79.3%)||Free Throws||22/24 (91.7%)|
|42 (10/32)||Rebounds (O/D)||31 (9/22)|
|11||2nd Chance Pts||15|
|14||Points off TO||14|
|36||Pts in the Paint||34|
Tempo Tracker (Possessions)
Eastern Kentucky offense
What happened: Bruins guard Craig Bradshaw (pictured above) has been consistently good all season long. But you could argue that Bradshaw hasn’t been ‘great.’
In front of a national television audience, Bradshaw put on the show of the season.
The Bruins senior scored a season-high 33 points, and was a single rebound short of a double-double to help lead the Bruins past EKU. The win came just 12 days after the Colonels handed Belmont their first ever home loss in three-plus seasons of Ohio Valley Conference play.
Belmont jumped out to a 23-4 lead on the road in the opening 10 minutes. EKU chipped into the lead by the break, and clawed all the way back to a one-point game in the second half, but the Bruins never surrendered the lead. In a rarity, the Bruins out rebounded EKU by 11, and had 19 assists on their 27 baskets, including eight from Austin Luke.
Three Colonels, Nick Mayo, Jarelle Reischel, and Javontae Hawkins finished with 19 points each in the loss.
What it means: Belmont stays in control of their destiny for the OVC regular season title, and just as important the one-seed in the OVC Tournament. As Murray State learned last year, the overall one-seed does get an automatic bid to the NIT, if the double-bye in Nashville isn’t enough to send them to a conference tournament title.
This time of year, I’m often focused not just on a team winning, but how they win. The Bruins didn’t shoot the three particularly well, (for them) but held the often streaky Colonels to 38% shooting from the field. If it weren’t for EKU’s super-human 22-24 performance from the free-throw line, the game probably wouldn’t have been in doubt.
But it’s worth pointing out that this is the second time in two games that the Bruins have built early leads, only to watch them evaporate. It cost them a loss against Morehead State, and while they survived EKU’s rally, it’s becoming a troubling trend for the Bruins as the OVC Tournament looms.
Player of the Night: Bradshaw gets top billing, but another solid night for my frontrunner for OVC Player of the Year, Evan Bradds, who netted another double-double behind 18 points (on 7-10 shooting) and 11 rebounds.
What’s Next: The conference title is basically on the line Saturday, when Belmont takes on Tennessee Tech. If TTU wins, they would have to lose out their final week (which are two home games against Morehead State and Eastern Kentucky) for the Bruins to have any chance to win the division. If Belmont wins, TTU goes a game down in the loss column, and the two are tied in head-to-head record, the first tiebreaker.
So, what happens if Belmont beats TTU, but finishes in a tie with the Golden Eagles. (This assumes Belmont beats Tech, but loses to TSU — and that TTU wins out after losing to Belmont) There are two scenarios, and neither ends well for Belmont.
- TSU wins out, forces three-way tie at 12-4: Ties for the division lead, if they can’t be broken head-to-head, are broken based on record against the division. TTU, at 7-3 against the East, is ahead of TSU/Belmont, (both 6-4) and would get the one-seed. Interestingly enough…Belmont and TSU’s tie for the three-seed would have to be broken on a coin flip. Both teams would have identical records, and identical losses — making the tie unbreakable.
- TSU loses one, TTU and Belmont only at 12-4: Still TTU, thanks to their divisional record.
What it means: EKU is no longer in control of their own fate to getting the eight seed, but all is not lost. If Austin Peay loses again in their final three games, EKU is back in the driver’s seat, assuming they win out. Eastern Kentucky is a game-back in the loss column of Austin Peay for the final spot in Nashville, but they do hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Governors, which could be huge.
The Colonels offense, which saw a resurgence in back-to-back wins over Tennessee State and Belmont, has regressed to the mean over the past three games, all loses. We’ve seen bursts, just not the sustain shooting clinics over a full 40 minutes. But — given the right draw, it may be enough for EKU to pull a few upsets in Nashville.
Player of the Night: Of the trio of 19-point scorers, Mayo’s 8-11 shooting performance was the best. He was also the team’s co-leader in rebounds with seven. The one negative: five turnovers on the night.
What’s next: A Saturday off, before playing TTU and Jacksonville State with a conference tournament bid on the line.