Belmont did all it could to remain in the hunt for its fifth straight Ohio Valley Conference regular season title by defeating Tennessee Tech 59-47 on Jan. 30. The pursuit of that goal took a hit two days later when the Bruins’ share of the top spot proved to be short-lived when Jacksonville State stunned Belmont 60-41.
The win also made the race for the title a whole lot more interesting as the second half of the conference schedule heats up as no fewer than six teams have realistic chances of earning the top seed in the OVC tournament
Ellie Harmeyer and Maura Muensterman combined for 39 points in Belmont’s victory last week on the road. The win also marked the 13th time the Bruins have defeated Tennessee Tech in the last 14 meetings between the two schools.
Harmeyer, the OVC preseason player of the year, notched her third straight 20-point double-double. She finished with 22 points and 14 rebounds against the Golden Eagles. Muensterman chipped in with a season-high 17 points, including five 3-pointers.
Belmont held Tech to just 18 points in the opening half and led all but 40 seconds in the game.
Jordan Brock and Kesha Brady led the Golden Eagles with 13 and 11 points, respectively, as Tech lost for the first time in conference play.
Tech had little trouble in getting past Tennessee State 88-47 two days later to remain tied for the top spot in the league standings. It was the 10th conference loss for the Tigers in as many outings this season.
UT Martin, which began the week one game off the pace for the OVC lead, swept past Eastern Kentucky (65-50) and Morehead State (82-64) and moved into a tie for the top spot on the virtue of Belmont’s win over Tennessee Tech.
Belmont and Southeast Missouri share third spot in the league standings with identical 8-2 records. The Bruins entertain Murray State on Thursday and will take on Austin Peay on Saturday with hopes of keeping pace in the conference. Southeast Missouri plays host to Jacksonville State on Thursday before Tennessee Tech travels to Cape Girardeau in one of two marquee games in the OVC this week.
A sweep by SEMO over the Gamecocks and Golden Eagles would improve the Redhawks to 10-2 in the league and depending on how Tech and UT Martin fare, SEMO could be alone in first place.
There will be just one team atop the standings when the sun rises on Friday morning.
Tennessee Tech plays at UT Martin in a game that will garner plenty of attention around the conference and the nation. The Golden Eagles will close the week with another key contest on Saturday at SEMO.
UT Martin, meanwhile, will play Jacksonville State after Thursday’s key OVC battle against Tennessee Tech.
Jacksonville State, along with Eastern Illinois, are tied for fifth place in the league. The Gamecocks and Panthers both enter the week with 6-4 conference records.
OVC Marquee Games of the Week
Tennessee Tech at UT Martin
When: Thursday, Feb. 6, 5:30 p.m.
Where: Elam Center (4,300)
TENNESSEE TECH GOLDEN EAGLES: There is always inherent pressure in athletics. How a team handles that pressure likely means the difference in the outcome of contests.
Pressure is the operative word as the Golden Eagles look to pick up a road win when they travel to Martin, Tenn.
A win over the Skyhawks and a win over Southeast Missouri on Saturday, would provide Tech with a bit of a respite. A loss, or two, would only add to the pressure the Golden Eagles are already facing. They can ill afford to fall too far off the pace.
Tennessee Tech, which is outscoring its opponents by 11.2 points per game, enters the key OVC matchup against UT Martin with three players scoring in double figures and how well the Skyhawks are able to contain them will play a key role in Thursday’s outcome.
Kesha Brady (5-7, Jr., G) leads the way for the Golden Eagles with her 15.6 points per game average. She is connecting on 41 percent (98-241) of her shots from the floor, including 35 percent (34-98) from behind the arc. A dynamic player, Brady is fourth on the team in assists (39) and ranks third on the team with 19 steals on the season.
Mackenzie Coleman (6-3, Jr. F) has also proven to be proficient at finding the net. She is averaging 11.1 points by shooting 59 percent (93-157) of her field goal attempts. Jordan Brock (5-7, Jr. G) is the third Techster in double figures with her 10.7 points per contest output. She is also third on the team in assists with 40 on the season.
UT MARTIN SKYHAWKS: And the beat goes on for UT Martin as the Skyhawks extended its current winning streak to three games after defeating Eastern Kentucky and Morehead State last week.
But UTM has not been tested the way it will be when Tennessee Tech comes to town on Thursday with the conference lead on the line.
Chelsey Perry (6-2, Jr., F) is one of two players scoring in double figures at this point of the season. One of the top players in the OVC, Perry is currently averaging 21.6 points per game this season, including a league-leading 24.7 points in conference play. She has connected on 175 of 359 field goal attempts (.487), including 35 of 83 (.411) from 3-point range.
Perry also leads the team with 8.3 rebounds per game on the year. She averages nine rebounds in each conference game for the Skyhawks. Her 39 assists rank third on the team and is tied for the team lead with Brittni Moore (5-10, So. F) in steals with 35.
Maddie Waldrop (6-2, Jr. F) enters Thursday’s clash with the Golden Eagles with 10.9 points and 7.7 rebounds per outing this season. She is second on the squad with 41 assists and has 21 steals this season.
A third player, Damiah Griffin (6-0, RS, So., G/F), was averaging 12.0 points per game after starting the first 12 games of the season before being sidelined for the Skyhawks.
Tennessee Tech at Southeast Missouri
When: Saturday, Feb. 8, 2 p.m.
Where: Show Me Center (7,000)
TENNESSEE TECH GOLDEN EAGLES: See above
SE MISSOURI REDHAWKS: The hottest team in the Ohio Valley Conference, SEMO has won its last six conference games and hope to have the streak at seven games before Tennessee Tech comes to town on Saturday. The Redhawks have not lost in conference play since a 57-45 loss to Belmont on Jan. 9 at home.
Tesia Thompson (5-10, Jr., G) is the leading scorer for the Redhawks as the prepare to tipoff against the Golden Eagles. She is averaging 16.8 points per game by shooting 40 percent (100-248) from the floor and adding 99 of 122 (.811) free throws on the year. She also leads the way in rebounding with 8.0 rebounds per outing. The talented upperclassman is third on the team in assists (53) and steals (25).
Teammate Carrie Shephard (5-4, RS, Sr., G) is not far behind with 16.7 points per game of her own after connecting on 129-307 (.42) field goal attempts so far this season. She holds the team lead in steals with 49 and is second with 72 assists and is averaging 3.3 rebounds per game.
Taelur Pruitt (5-6, So. G) could reach double figures in scoring average with a pair of solid performances this weekend. She currently sits at 9.8 points per game for the Redhawks this season.
|Southeast Missouri State||14-4||22-7||112|
Last Week’s Results
Austin Peay 74, SIU-Edwardsville 61
Belmont 59, Tennessee Tech 47
Jacksonville State 70, Tennessee State 48
Murray State 92, Eastern Illinois 87
SE Missouri 67, Morehead State 61
UT Martin 65, Eastern Kentucky 50
Eastern Illinois 76, Austin Peay 47
Jacksonville State 60, Belmont 41
Murray State 74, SIU-Edwardsville 60
SE Missouri 60, Eastern Kentucky 44
Tennessee Tech 88, Tennessee State 47
UT Martin 82, Morehead State 64
This Week’s Schedule
Austin Peay at Tennessee State, 11 a.m., ESPN3
Murray State at Belmont, 11 a.m., ESPN+
Eastern Kentucky at Eastern Illinois, 5:15 p.m., ESPN+
Jacksonville State at SE Missouri, 5:15 p.m., ESPN+
Morehead State at SIU-Edwardsville, 5:30 p.m., ESPN+
Tennessee Tech at UT Martin, 5:30 p.m., ESPN+
Eastern Kentucky at SIU-Edwardsville, 1 p.m., ESPN+
Morehead State at Eastern Illinois, 1 p.m., ESPN+
Jacksonville State at UT Martin, 2 p.m., ESPN+
Tennessee Tech at SE Missouri, 2 p.m., ESPN+
Austin Peay at Belmont, 3 p.m., ESPN+
Murray State at Tennessee State, 5:30 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.