OVC Ball Statbox
|11-16 (7-7 OVC)|
|16-12 (8-5 OVC)|
|28/60 (46.7%)||Field Goals||28/59 (47.5%)|
|15/29 (51.7%)||3-Point FG||7/22 (31.8%)|
|13/17 (76.5%)||Free Throws||24/28 (85.7%)|
|31 (4/27)||Rebounds (O/D)||40 (8/32)|
|5||2nd Chance Pts||9|
|21||Points off TO||11|
|20||Pts in the Paint||34|
Tempo Tracker (Possessions)
Eastern Illinois offense
UT Martin offense
What happened: With 1.2 seconds in regulation, Eastern Illinois made a brilliant full-court pass, but couldn’t complete the layup that would have ended the game in regulation, and kept them in the mix for the all-important double-bye in Nashville. (See video below)
Instead, it’s UT Martin who in control of their destiny. The Skyhawks rode a strong free-throw performance to an overtime win, pushing them into a tie with Murray State atop the West Division. Skyhawks forward Myles Taylor hit 13-14 from the charity stripe, and the team finished 24-28 from the line to get their sixth straight win.
Twymond Howard (pictured above) added a game-high 29 points as 12 rebounds. Taylor also finished with a double-double (23 points, 11 rebounds) in the win.
Eastern Illinois took a nine-point lead into the break, and pushed that lead to double digits in the first minute of the second half. But the Panthers, who held UTM to just 10 points in the paint in the opening 20 minutes, couldn’t keep the Skyhawks out of the lane in the second.
The Skyhawks outshot EIU 22-10 at the free-throw line in the second-half and overtime.
What it means: EIU is all-but out of the race to top the West Division, and the double-bye it grants. The Panthers are now 7-7 in conference play, and two games back of both Murray State and UT Martin in the race for the West Division. There is but a single scenario left for the Panthers to win the division.
- Three-way tie with UTM / Murray: It can happen if the winner of the Skyhawks/Racers game loses out (they play on the last day of the season) and the loser splits their other two games. No matter who beats who here — if all three teams get to 9-7, UTM would win the tiebreaker — either by overall head-to-head, division record, or their sweep of Austin Peay.
- EIU and UTM tie atop the conference. (Murray State loses out) Same result — it’s UTM getting the Division.
- EIU and Murray tie atop the conference (UTM loses out) This assumes Murray State loses to Austin Peay on Saturday. EIU split with the Govs, and would win the West.
So, short(er) version: If UTM and Murray win Saturday, EIU is officially eliminated from contention for the No. 2 seed in Nashville, and can only be, at best, the No. 5 seed. The Panthers are 2.5 games back of No. 4 Tennessee State with two to play, and the Tigers hold the tiebreaker.
Thanks to EKU’s loss against Belmont, the Panthers are guaranteed a spot in Nashville.
Player of the night: Guard Cornell Johnston had the rare assist-points double-double, finishing the night with 12 points and 10 assists. Also worth noting the night Demetrius McReynolds, had, hitting five of seven from three-point range on his way to sharing a team-high 19 points.
What’s next: Praying? Also playing against SEMO on Saturday, and Murray State on Thursday. Interestingly, EIU will have a longer rest heading to the OVC Tournament than most, not having to play on the final day of the regular season. Probably won’t take out the sting of playing two days earlier than hoped.
What it means: The team I’ve occasionally (okay, frequently) referred to as “the most inconsistent offense in college basketball” has won six straight games, and shot up from 2-5 in OVC play to a share of the West Division lead. It’s worth noting: the Skyhawks needed OT in both their last two games, and only one of team they’ve played in that streak (Murray State) has a winning record.
But confidence often breeds, well, more confidence, and the Skyhawks seem to be peaking at the right time. One area they’ve improved in: rebounding. During their four-game losing streak prior to this current winning streak, the Skyhawks allowed 15+ offensive rebounds three times. Since then? Never more than 10, and just four by the Panthers.
UTM’s path to a two-seed is quite simple: win out. But they’re in a good position even if they don’t: they beat Murray State in their only head-to-head meeting so far, and hold a win over the likely three-seed (and possible one-seed) Tennessee Tech. The onus is on the Racers, not the Skyhawks, to get a game clear to win the division.
Player of the Night: Howard continues to score, and take a large volume of the team’s shots, but Taylor’s free-throw performance was nothing short of spectacular. Howard, a 6’7 forward, is 80% from the line on the season.
What’s next: SIUE on Saturday night, before the final East-West game next Thursday against Tennessee State. A win by UTM would give the Skyhawks (or Murray) a stronger chance for a single-bye if they don’t win the division.
How close EIU came to winning in regulation: (Courtesy: Jeff Bidwell)