CSJ OVC Men’s Hoops Tournament Preview: Bruins, Racers Share OVC Championship, Belmont Top Seed

The kings of the Ohio Valley Conference maintained their familiar perch at the top of the Ohio Valley Conference as the 2019-20 regular season came to a close.

Belmont, behind a big night from graduate transfer Tyler Scanlon, defeated visiting Tennessee State on the final night of conference play to secure its 11th regular season conference championship in the last 15 years and the sixth since joining the OVC before the start of the 2013-14 season.

Murray State, meanwhile, earned a share of the league championship by defeating Austin Peay on the same night.

It was the third straight league crown for the Racers, who have now won an OVC-best 27 conference titles since they helped form the league in 1948.

Belmont and Murray State both ended conference play with 15-3 records and the Bruins will take the No. 1 seed into the conference tournament which get underway March 4 in Evansville, Ind.

Austin Peay enters this week’s tournament as the No. 3 seed and Eastern Kentucky, which qualified for the tournament for the first time since 2015, is the No. 4 seed. Tennessee State, Eastern Illinois, Jacksonville State and Morehead State round out the tournament field.

The tournament tips off Wednesday when Tennessee State takes on Morehead State and Jacksonville State faces Eastern Illinois. Eastern Kentucky will face the winner of TSU and MSU while Austin Peay tangles with the winner between JSU and EIU the following day. 

Both the Bruins and Racers earn the double bye in the tournament and will not play until the semifinal round of Friday. The championship game is schedule for Saturday.

This will mark the 57th edition of the OVC tournament, the fourth-oldest Division 1 basketball championship tournament in the nation.

Scanlon, a transfer from Boston University, scored 15 points in the first 10:21 of the game and ended with a team-high 20 points as the Bruins secured the top seed with a 72-65 win over Tennessee State. 

Belmont shot 63 percent (17-27) from the field in the first half, including four of nine from behind the arc to build a 40-25 lead late in the half. The Tigers, meanwhile, had scored the final five points of the opening half and added the first seven points after intermission to close to within 40-37 early in the second half.

A 3-pointer from Wesley Harris brought TSU back to within three points at 64-61 with just over four minutes remaining in the game.

This time it was Belmont’s time to answer.

The Bruins scored seven straight points to push the lead back to double digits at 71-61 with 1:41 left to go.

Nick Muszynski and Grayson Murphy joined Scanlon in double figures for the Bruins with 19 and 13, respectively. Murphy also added eight rebounds, seven assists and four steals in the contest.

Michael Littlejohn led the Tigers with 18 points in the loss while Harris and Carlos Marshall finished with 16 and 13 points, respectively.

Murray State used a balanced scoring attack in its 75-61 win over Austin Peay to secure a share of the OVC championship. 

Anthony Smith led the way with a double-double by scoring 17 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. KJ Williams had a double-double of his own with 15 points and 11 rebounds. Tevin Brown (15) and Jaiveon Eaves (13) also finished in double digits for the Racers.Austin Peay had three players finish in double figures. Jordyn Adams led the way with a game-high 27 points while Eli Abaev and Antwuan Butler both scored 10 points for the Governors.

Teamvs OVCOverallSagarin
Belmont15-324-782
Murray State15-322-8121
Austin Peay14-420-11159
Eastern Kentucky12-615-16254
Tennessee State9-917-14247
Eastern Illinois9-916-14223
Jacksonville State8-1013-18265
Morehead State7-1113-18303
Tennessee Tech6-129-22328
UT Martin5-139-20325
SIU-Edwardsville5-138-23330
Southeast Missouri State5-137-24340

Check out our full Mid-Major Sagarin Ratings for this week here.

Last Week’s Results

Feb. 27

Austin Peay 66, Morehead State 58
Belmont 65, Tennessee Tech 62
Eastern Illinois 72, SE Missouri 70
Murray State 74, Eastern Kentucky 62
SIU-Edwardsville 90, UT Martin 75
Tennessee State 65, Jacksonville State 55

Feb. 29

Belmont 72, Tennessee State 65
Eastern Illinois 70, SIU-Edwardsville 52
Eastern Kentucky 80, Morehead State 76
Jacksonville State 75, Tennessee Tech 71
Murray State 75, Austin Peay 61
UT Martin 87, SE Missouri 78

This Week’s Games
OVC Tournament at Evansville, Ind.

March 4th

Tennessee State vs. Morehead State, 6:30 p.m., ESPN+
Jacksonville State vs. Eastern Illinois, 8:30 p.m., ESPN+

March 5th

Eastern Kentucky vs. Tennessee State/Morehead State, 6:30 p.m., ESPN+
Austin Peay vs. Jacksonville State/Eastern Illinois, 8:30 p.m., ESPN+

March 6th, OVC Semifinal Round

Belmont vs. Eastern Kentucky/Tennessee State/Morehead State, 7 p.m., ESPNU
Murray State vs. Austin Peay/Jacksonville State/Eastern Illinois, 9 p.m., ESPNU

March 7th, OVC Championship

Semifinal Winners, 7 p.m., ESPN 2

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