Murray State and Austin Peay continue to go toe-to-toe for the top spot in the Ohio Valley Conference as the Racers and Governors both swept a pair of games against common opponents to remain perfect in conference play on the season.
Murray State defeated Eastern Illinois 73-70 on Jan. 30 and cruised past SIU-Edwardsville two days later. Austin Peay, meanwhile, trounced the Cougars 82-58 to open the week and downed the Panthers 68-64 to keep pace. The Racers are 17-5 on the season, while the Govs improved to 16-7 overall.
The two teams square off against each other for the first time this season on Feb. 13 in Clarksville and will close the regular season on Feb. 29 in Murray.
Eastern Kentucky kept its hopes of a top conference finish alive by also winning two games last week. The Colonels defeated UT Martin 99-86 and Southeast Missouri 70-57 and sit in third place in the league standings with an 8-2 record.
Belmont, meanwhile improved to 6-4 in the OVC with wins over Tennessee Tech (92-84) and Jacksonville State (78-64) and in fourth place in the conference standings heading into this week’s games against the league leaders. The Bruins play Murray State on Thursday in Nashville and will tangle with Austin Peay on Saturday.
Murray State’s win won EIU was the 10th straight win for the Racers this season and extended their conference winning streak to 18 straight regular-seasons games dating back to last season. It was also the 17th straight win at home for the Racers at the CGSB Center. The 17 consecutive home wins are the fifth-most active streak in the nation.
Gonzaga has won 35 straight at home, while Villanova and Prairie View have both won 21 straight games on their home floor. Oregon and Florida have also won 17 straight home games heading into this week’s action.
KJ Williams was the hero of the night against the Panthers as he came up with a steal at the 1:43 mark of the second half and saving the ball before it went out of bounds. He converted the steal into a basket on the other end to extend the Racers’ lead to three points with 1:33 remaining in regulation.
Eastern Illinois had two chances to tie the game in the final 18 seconds, but the Racers thwarted any and all comeback hopes of the Panthers.
Tevin Brown scored 24 points to lead the Racers who had three players finish in double digits. Williams joined him by scoring 14 points and teammate Demond Robinson chipped in with 10 points of his own.
The Panthers also placed three players in double figures in scoring. Josiah Wallace finished with 24 points, while Mack Smith and George Dixon both added 10 points in the loss.
Austin Peay also nearly lost to Eastern Illinois as the Governors needed to rally in the second half to come away with the win to keep pace with Murray State for the top spot in the league standings.
The Panthers shot 62 percent from the floor in the first half that allowed them to take a 13-point lead at one point in the opening half. An 11-5 run by the Govs over the final five minutes of the half that allowed AP to close to within 38-31 at the break.
Antwuan Butler gave Austin Peay its first lead with 9:10 remaining in the game when he scored from the floor and added a free thrown that put the Govs in front by one point at the time.
EIU’s Mack Smith extended his streak of consecutive games with a 3-pointer to 71 games with back-to-back treys that put the Panthers up by four with under three minutes remaining in the game. They would be unable to hold that advantage as Butler and Jordyn Adams scored on consecutive trips down the floor to pull the teams into a tie with a minute to go in the contest.
Eli Abaev took a nifty pass from Carlos Paez to put the Govs in front for the final time and teammate Taylor tipped back a missed free throw that accounted for the final margin of victory.
Terry Taylor led for Governors in double figures with 16 points in the game. He was joined by Adams’ 13 points while Butler and Paez finished with 12 and 11 points, respectively.
OVC Marquee Game of the Week
Murray State at Belmont
When: Thursday, Feb. 6, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Curb Event Center (5,085)
MURRAY STATE RACERS: Murray State enters Thursday’s game with an impressive winning margin of nearly 13 points per game over the opposition this season. The Racers average 77.6 points per game and allows just 64.0 points to be scored against them.
Having four standouts tallying more than 10 points per game certainly helps in that regard.
Tevin Brown (6-5, So., G) leads the way with an impressive 18.5 points per game for the Bruins. He also ranks third on the team in rebounding (4.7 rpg) and sits atop the team charts with 26 steals while dishing out 78 assists to rank second in that department.
KJ Williams (6-10, So., F) is scoring 13.2 points per game this season and ranks second on the team in rebounding (7.3 rpg) and steals (17).
Teammates Anthony Smith (6-7, Sr., F) and Jaiveon Eaves (6-2, Sr., G) are both scoring 10.4 points per game. Smith is also leading the way in rebounding with 8.2 rebounds per contest and has tallied 21 assists and 13 steals on the season. Eaves, meanwhile, averages 2.5 rounds per game and ranks third on the squad with 42 assists.
BELMONT BRUINS: So much is riding on this week’s games for Belmont. A pair of wins would establish the Bruins as a force to be reckoned with as the second half of the conference season get underway. A split would not remove them from similar consideration.
A pair of losses, meanwhile, could move Belmont to the realm of also-rans in the Ohio Valley Conference.
Yes, a lot is on the line was the Bruins tangle with Murray State on Thursday before tangling with Austin Peay on Saturday.
Adam Kunkel (6-3, So., G) is the top scorer for the Bruins so far this season. He enters the game against the Racers with a 16.7 points per game average and ranks fifth on the squad in rebounding with 2.9 caroms per contest. He is also third on the team in assists (53) and steals (20).
He is joined in double figures by teammates Nick Muszynski (6-11, So., C) and Tyler Scanlon (6-7, Gr., F) who come in at 15.6 and 12.6 points per game, respectively. Muszynski is second on the team in rebounding with 6.5 boards per game. Scanlon, meanwhile, ranks second on the Bruins team with 67 assists and 22 steals and is third in rebounding with a 4.7 average.
OVC Marquee Game of the Week
Austin Peay at Belmont
When: Saturday, Feb. 8, 5 p.m.
Where: Curb Event Center (5,085)
AUSTIN PEAY GOVERNORS: Looking at the numbers it doesn’t seem possible that Austin Peay is in the position the Governors find themselves midway through the Ohio Valley Conference schedule.
AP is averaging 78.8 points per game and allows the opposition 72.1 points per game. That 6.7 scoring differential is even more interesting in that just three of the Govs’ 10 conference triumphs have been by less than 10 points.
Toss in the fact Austin Peay has just two players scoring in double figures indicates the Governors are doing the little things like rebounding and distributing the ball, along with limiting the opposition chances to score better than most other teams. A total of 13 Governors have scored points this season.
Terry Taylor (6-5, Jr. G/F) leads the Governors in scoring with 22.4 points and rebounding (9.7 rpg) per game this season. One of the most versatile players in the conference, Taylor also leads the team in 28 steals while ranking fourth with 31 assists. The three players ahead of him in assists have combined for 210 helpers.
Jordyn Adams (6-3, Fr. G) is the only other player scoring in double figures for the Govs. He takes a 17.6 points per game average into this week’s pair of games. Adams also pulls down 3.6 rebounds per game and his 50 assists are the third most for the Governors this season and his 20 steals are fourth on the team.
BELMONT BRUINS: See above
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 82, SIU-Edwardsville 58
Belmont 92, Tennessee Tech 84
Eastern Kentucky 99, UT Martin 86
Morehead State 90, SE Missouri 74
Murray State 73, Eastern Illinois 70
Tennessee State 72, Jacksonville State 62
Austin Peay 68, Eastern Illinois 64
Belmont 78, Jacksonville State 64
Eastern Kentucky 70, SE Missouri 57
Morehead State 85, UT Martin 77
Murray State 74, SIU-Edwardsville 55
Tennessee State 72, Tennessee Tech 67
This Week’s Games
Murray State at Belmont, 6:30 p.m., ESPN+
Morehead State at SIU-Edwardsville, 7 p.m., ESPN+
Jacksonville State at SE Missouri, 7:15 p.m., ESPN+
Austin Peay at Tennessee State, 7:30 p.m., ESPN3
Eastern Kentucky at Eastern Illinois, 7:30 p.m., ESPN+
Tennessee Tech at UT Martin, 7:30 p.m., ESPN+
Morehead State at Eastern Illinois, 3:15 p.m., ESPN+
Eastern Kentucky at SIU-Edwardsville, 3:30 p.m., ESPN+
Jacksonville State at UT Martin, 4 p.m., ESPN+
Tennessee Tech at SE Missouri, 4 p.m., ESPN+
Austin Peay at Belmont, 5 p.m., ESPN+
Murray State at Tennessee State, 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.