Ohio Valley Recap
Racing past Tech
Entering Saturday’s OVC Championship game, Tennessee Tech was hoping that what did not kill it only made it stronger. The Golden Eagles were in a similar position as they were one year ago, sitting as the tournament’s top seed after winning the regular season championship. In 2001, Tech was not able to win the OVC tourney, as it lost to Austin Peay in the semifinals.
This year, Tech got revenge on Austin Peay by beating the Governors by nine points in the semifinals. Saturday’s final pitted Jeff Lebo’s Tech squad against the Murray State Racers. The Golden Eagles were seeking more revenge, as their only conference loss this season was a 75-56 drubbing at the hands of Murray State. In the finals, the back and forth game came down to the wire. Once again, Tech came up on the short end of the stick, as Murray State guard Justin Burdine (tourney MVP) hit a jumper with less than 10 seconds left to put the Racers ahead to stay.
In perhaps the most consistently competitive conference in America, the 70-69 final score marked the sixth time in the past nine years that the OVC championship game was decided by three points or less. Congratulations to the Racers and coach Tevester Anderson. Murray State advances to its first NCAA Tournament since 1999, and wins its 11th OVC tournament title. Look for the Racers to be seeded 15th or 16th in the Big Dance, as they are an abysmal 147th in the RPI rankings. For Jeff Lebo and his Golden Eagles, maybe three times will be a charm and next season will be the year that they finally make the tournament.
Player of the Year – Henry Domercant, Eastern Illinois
(Hoopville preseason prediction – Domercant)
Domercant becomes the first Panther to win this award. The 6-foot-4 guard led the OVC with more than 26 points per game, ranking him second in the nation, three points behind VMI freshman Jason Conley. The junior from Lisle, Ill. led his team in scoring in 29 games this season, including a career-high 40 points against Loyola on 12/15, the most points scored in a game in the conference this season. Domercant finished sixth in the OVC in rebounding (7.2 per game), was second in the conference with an 89 percent free-throw clip and led the league with 3.35 made 3-pointers per game. He was also chosen as the Player of the Week three times this season.
Freshman of the Year – Derek Winans, Sourtheast Missouri
(Hoopville preseason prediction – Roshaun Bowens, Tennessee State)
Winans had a great rookie year, as he ranked in the top 20 in nine different OVC categories. The 6-foot-2 guard led Southeast Missouri and was eighth in the league in scoring at 14.9 ppg, and tallied double figures in 21 of his 27 games this season. The freshman from East Cape Girardeau, Ill. becomes the first Indian to capture this award.
Coach of the Year – Jeff Lebo, Tennessee Tech
(Hoopville preseason prediction – Rick Samuels, Eastern Illinois)
Lebo, the former North Carolina guard, becomes the first coach in OVC history to win this award three years in a row. He was able to coach Tennessee Tech to the OVC regular season championship, but was not able to take his team to the field of 65, leaving a sour taste in his mouth that will last the next 12 months. The Golden Eagles were an offensive juggernaut, as they led the OVC in points per game (79.7), scoring margin (+11.5), field goal percentage (48%), 3-point percentage (38%), rebounding margin (+8.7), and assists (518 total, 17.3 apg). Lebo likely would trade this award for a trip to the NCAA Tournament, but maybe next year he can have both.
Final Regular Season Standings
Tennessee Tech – 24-6, 15-1 in the OVC
Morehead State – 18-11, 11-5 in the OVC
Murray State – 19-12, 10-6 in the OVC
Austin Peay – 14-18, 8-8 in the OVC
Tennessee-Martin – 15-14, 7-9 in the OVC
Eastern Illinois – 15-16, 7-9 in the OVC
Tennessee State – 11-16, 7-9 in the OVC
Southeast Missouri – 6-22, 4-12 in the OVC
Eastern Kentucky – 7-20, 3-13 in the OVC
First Team All-OVC
Henry Domercant, Eastern Illinois
Nick Stapleton, Austin Peay
Damien Kinloch, Tennessee Tech
Justin Burdine, Murray State
Ricky Minard, Morehead State