Ohio Valley Conference co-leaders Murray State and Austin Peay were pushed to the limit, but both came away with a pair of wins last week to remain atop the conference standings.
The Racers had five players score in double figures as MSU opened the week with an 85-75 win over Belmont on Jan. 23 at home inside the CFSB Center.Murray St. It was the 16th straight OVC regular-season win for the Racers, who improved to 8-0 in the conference.
Tevin Brown scored a game-high 24 points and tallied eight assists for the Racers in their win over the Bruins, while Anthony Smith finished with 13 points and a career-high 15 rebounds in the win. KJ Williams (15), Jaiveon Eaves (13) and Daquan Smith (11) also reached double digits.
MSU trailed 35-31 at the intermission before Belmont extended its lead to 46-37 win just over 17 minutes remaining. Daquan Smith sparked a rally that saw the Racers go on a 16-8 run to tie the game. He connected on back-to-back 3-pointers to tie the game 53-53 with 10:43 left in the game. He hit another less than four minutes later that put MSU in front 62-59.
Eaves later scored on back-to-back treys of his own in a span of 60 seconds to give MSU a five-point lead with 3:43 to go in the game. The Racers would finish the contest with six 3-pointers in the final 4:26 to keep the Bruins at bay.
Brown would continue his hot hand two days later by leading all scorers with 22 points as the Racers defeated Tennessee State 76-64. Devin Gilmore came off the bench to post a double-double by scoring 13 points and pulling down 10 rebounds for the Racers. KJ Williams and Demond Robinson finished with 12 and 10 points, respectively, for the winners.
It was a comeback win for the second night in a row as the Racers trailed by eight points with 9:09 left in the first half. MSU was in front 32-29 at halftime and used a 19-8 burst to begin the second half to build a 51-37 advantage. The Tigers got no closer than seven points the rest of the way.
Austin Peay, meanwhile, also downed Tennessee State and Belmont to keep pace with the Racers.
Jordyn Adams and Terry Taylor both scored 37 points to lead the Governors to an impressive 99-74 win over the Tigers on Jan. 23 before AP got past Belmont 86-78 two days later.
Adams and Taylor began the week by combining for AP’s first 21 points of the game and 45 points in the first half against the Tigers. Adams scored 24 points himself in the first half.
Adams led four Govs in double figures with 24 points, all in the second half, against the Bruins. Eli Abaev, who scored AP’s first seven points of the game, finished with 18 points, while Carlos Paez and Terry Taylor also reached double figures with 13 points apiece. Taylor also grabbed 17 rebounds in the game, the most by a Governor this season, and his ninth double-double on the year.
Murray State and Austin Peay return home for a pair of games this week. The Racers tangle with Eastern Illinois on Thursday and will play host to SIU-Edwardsville on Saturday. The Governors take on the same two foes with the Cougars traveling to Clarksville on Thursday and the Panthers coming in to close the week.
Belmont slipped to fourth place in the OVC standings following the two losses on the week. The Bruins are now 5-3 in league play and 14-7 overall heading into this week’s slate of games. BU plays at Tennessee Tech and Jacksonville State.
Eastern Kentucky moved into third place in the conference standings after defeating Jacksonville State (81-77) and Tennessee Tech (80-74) to move to 6-2 in the OVC and 9-12 on the season. The Colonels entertain UT Martin and Southeast Missouri this week.
This Week’s OVC Marquee Game
Tennessee State at Jacksonville State
When: Thursday, Jan. 30, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Pete Mathews Coliseum (3,500)
TENNESSEE STATE TIGERS: Tennessee State has struggled to find consistency so far this season, but the Tigers get a chance to establish themselves as a contender for a possible upper echelon finish in the league standings prior to the start of the OVC tournament in March.
TSU, which lost to Eastern Kentucky (92-88) before dropping games last week to Austin Peay and Murray State, plays at Jacksonville State on Thursday before tangling with in-state foe Tennessee Tech on Saturday. The Tigers and Gamecocks both enter Thursday’s tilt with identical 4-4 records in league play, while the Eagles are tied with UT Martin and SIU-Edwardsville for ninth place in the league with 2-6 records heading into this week’s action.
Carlos Marshall (6-6, RS, So., G) leads four Tigers in double figures in scoring and has started 18 of the team’s 21 games so far this season. He is scoring at a 12.7 points per game clip and ranks third on the team in assists with 46 and grabs four rebounds per outing.
Michael Littlejohn (5-10, Sr., G) and Wesley Harris (6-9, Gr., G) are not far behind when it comes to scoring for the Tigers. Littlejohn enters this week’s play with an 11.3 points per game average and leads the team with 28 steals. His 70 assists are second-most on the team this season. Harris, meanwhile, averages 11.2 points per game and leads the team with an average of 5.5 rebounds per game.
Jy’lan Washington (6-9, RS, Sr., F) is the fourth Tiger to be averaging double digits in scoring. He is scoring at a 10.2 points per game clip and ranks second with 5.2 rebounds per outing. He has also added 21 assists and 12 steals on the year.
JACKSONVILLE STATE GAMECOCKS: Like Tennessee State, JSU has a chance to alter the OVC standings in a positive way beginning on Thursday against the Tigers.
The Gamecocks, who have won two of their last three games to improve to 4-4 in conference play, are being led by De’Torrian Ware (6-4, So., G) who is scoring at an 11.6 points per game despite coming off the bench in all 21 games so far this season. His 5.5 rebounds per game are second on the team in that department.
Jacara Cross (6-8, Sr., F), who has drawn the starting assignment in eight games, is close behind with 11.4 points per contest and is second on the team with 14 blocked shots this season. He also ranks third on team with 4.3 rebounds per game. Kayne Henry (6-7, Jr., G/F) is just off the pace by averaging 9.9 points and a team-high 6.9 rebounds per outing. He also tops the Gamecocks with 15 blocks on the year.
Ohio Valley Conference Men’s Basketball Standings
|Southeast Missouri State||5-13||7-24||340|
Check out our full Mid-Major Sagarin Ratings for this week here.
Last Week’s Results
Austin Peay 99, Tennessee State 74
Eastern Illinois 95, UT Martin 83
Eastern Kentucky 81, Jacksonville State 77
Murray State 85, Belmont 75
SIU-Edwardsville 84, SE Missouri 65
Tennessee Tech 71, Morehead State 59
Austin Peay 86, Belmont 78
Eastern Illinois 61, SE Missouri 59
Eastern Kentucky 80, Tennessee Tech 74
Jacksonville State 72, Morehead State 51
Murray State 76, Tennessee State 64
UT Martin 79, SIU-Edwardsville 76
This Week’s Games
SE Missouri at Morehead State, 6 p.m., ESPN+
UT Martin at Eastern Kentucky, 6:30 p.m., ESPN+
Eastern Illinois at Murray State, 7 p.m., ESPN+
Tennessee State at Jacksonville State, 7:30 p.m., ESPN+
Belmont at Tennessee Tech, 8 p.m., ESPNU
SIU-Edwardsville at Austin Peay, 8 p.m., ESPN+
UT Martin at Morehead State, 2 p.m., ESPN+
SE Missouri at Eastern Kentucky, 3 p.m., ESPN+
Belmont at Jacksonville State, 4 p.m., ESPN+
Eastern Illinois at Austin Peay, 4 p.m., ESPN+
SIU-Edwardsville at Murray State, 7 p.m., ESPN+
Tennessee State at Tennessee Tech, 7:30 p.m., ESPN+
A native of Bismarck, N.D., Ray is a graduate of North Dakota State University where he began studying athletic training and served as a student trainer for several Bison teams including swimming, wrestling and baseball and was a trainer at the 1979 NCAA national track and field championship meet at the University of Illinois. Ray later worked in the sports information office at NDSU. Following his graduation from NDSU he spent five years in the sports information office at Missouri Western State University and one year in the sports information at Georgia Tech. He has nearly 40 years of writing experience as a sports editor at several newspapers and has received numerous awards for his writing over the years. A noted sports historian, Ray is currently an assistant editor at Amateur Wrestling News.