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Ohio Valley Notebook

December 27, 2002 Conference Notes No Comments

Ohio Valley Conference Notebook

by Stephen Murphy

Austin Peay Governors

Legislation has been to Coach Dave Loos’ fruition early on this season. This is of course considering the Governors do not have a marquee guard for the first time four seasons. Austin Peay got off to a 5-3 start, their noteworthy win to date was in their opener against Memphis. The Tigers came in to the Pyramid 1-0 after a fresh beating of Syracuse in the Coaches VS. Cancer Classic at Madison Square Garden. They left with a disappointing 81-80 loss. Josh Lewis had 14 points, and 8 boards to help send the Tigers to their first defeat. The Governors got their first test of the season against Missouri on Nov. 30th. It would be fair to say the test did not go well as they fell by 35 points, despite guard Corey Gibson dropping 15 on the wildcats. Loos does not have a go to man, which is something the Governors will have to get used to. That was what made Loos aggressive on the recruiting trail, landing standout guard Maurice “squeaky” Hampton, and center Zac Schlader. Hampton made his presence felt early as he scored seven points in OT in the Memphis victory.

Victories this year have come over: Middle Tennessee, Belmont, Bluefield College, Memphis, and Knoxville College. While losses have come at the hands of Missouri, Mississippi, and Evansville. Anthony Davis is the Governors leader, while forward Corey Gipson has been a solid understudy. A 6-2 guard who was a recruiting risk a few years ago due to a stress fracture in his foot. Gipson has big scoring potential and is averaging a double-double in his first 8 games. Gipson is second on the team to Adrien Henning in scoring at 11.3 PPG, Henning, a 6-7 forward who can play either forward spot started all 32 games last season and Loos feels he is ready to be a solid OVC player.

After a short Xmas break, the Govs return to action in the Oneida Bingo and Casino Classic in Green Bay. They play host to Wisconsin-Green Bay in the opening round.

Eastern Illinois Panthers

Henry Domercant declared for the 2002 draft last spring to the dismay of Panther fans. Last summer Henry pulled his name out of the early entry list to return for his senior season. It is not often players from mid major colleges make themselves eligible for professional play early. No one was happier than head Coach Ric Samuels who would only want the best for his superstar. It came as no surprise as Domercant was voted preseason player of the year in the OVC. Naturally it is not surprise that the H-bomb led the Panthers in scoring in six of their eight games. Henry scored 30 points as Eastern stayed close to No. 14 ranked Illinois before succumbing 80-68. The Panthers were only down by six at the half, 38-32, and made the first basket of the second half to make it 38-34. They dropped both games in the Adidas Festival in Honolulu losing to Hawaii (81-65) and Cal Poly-SLO in overtime (73-70). It was the fourth straight loss for Eastern dropping them to 3-7. Eastern is now idle for the rest of the week until hosting Northern Illinois next Monday. Domercant was selected to the Adidas Festival Tournament team after scoring 25 vs. Hawaii and 24 vs. Cal Poly.

Eastern Kentucky Colonels

Hold your salute for the time being as the Colonels are on a three game slide. When you’re a former Kentucky point guard you know what it takes to perceiver. Colonel coach Travis Ford won’t have to rely solely on his recruiting class this year. Eastern has several players with game experience, and possible the OVC freshman of the year. EK got off to a 2-0 start before falling to Independent IPFW. Travis Ford’s team rebounded to put together a three game win streak before tumbling to Rick Pitino’s Louisville squad. Eastern lost its next two at Wright St. and home to Winthrop. There is reason to be optimistic, as freshman guard Matt Witt has been named Ohio Valley Conference Rookie of the Week for his efforts against Louisville, Wright State and Winthrop.

Witt, 6-0, 170-pound native of Tipp City, OH, scored a team-high 17 against the U of L Cardinals, six vs. Wright State and a career-best 26 points vs. Winthrop. In the Winthrop game, Witt hit 8-16 from the field, 4-9 from three-point territory and 6-6 from the free throw line, in addition to pulling down two rebounds and handing out a game-high five assists. Witt regained the EKU team lead in scoring with his 14.2 per game mark. He also tops the team in assists with 34 and minutes played per game at 28.2.

Before the season started coach Ford thought the Colonels would rely solely on guard Shawn Fields, in fact he had no idea who would start at point guard. The options were Mike Scott, Kenyatta Dix, and Austin Newton. Witt barely won the job and has surpassed expectations. Eastern Kentucky takes on big Gun nationally ranked Xavier and gets a test from the West.

Morehead State Eagles

Head Coach Kyle Macy (another Kentucky graduate) is not satisfies with a loss in the semifinals of the OVC tournament last year. Only one Eagle starter has departed in Kyle Umberger, a solid low post presence for the Eagles last year. Coach Macy returns the second best player in the OVC in Ricky Minard, who had a game high 18 points in a season opening disappointing loss at Arizona St. First-team All-OVC guard-forward Ricky Minard and third-team all-league guard Marquis Sykes head MSU’s list of returnees. Also back are 2001-02 starters Ike Lopez (center) and Kyle Hankins (guard). Morehead is off to a so-so start to the season with a four and four record. The Eagles were fresh off an overtime-thrilling win against Marshall and hoped to ride a wave of Momentum into Tuscaloosa. Ricky Minard and Marquis Sykes led the Eagles with 17 points each. Chez Marks had 11 points, but the Eagles still fell 82-64. The Crimson Tide, now 9-0 on the season, led 37-30 at the half. But, the Eagles went on an 11-2 run to open the period to lead 41-39 with 16:56 left in the game. Alabama, led by Walker and Dudley, then went on a 13-0 run to build a 52-41 lead. The Eagles crawled back to within 10 points on several occasions but could not catch the Tide. The winners scored the final eight points of the game over the final two minutes to produce the deceptive final margin of 18 points. The Eagles hope rebound against IUPUI on Saturday, and then they open conference play against Tennessee State Jan. 4th.

Murray State Racers

Off and racing, well that should come as no surprise as the Racers are the Ohio Valley favorites this season. After yielding to Tennessee Tech last season the Racers proved their worth and took the OVC tournament with a thrilling 68-65 win. All memories of the NCAA first round loss to Georgia are gone, what is not gone is momentum with a 6-2 start this year. The Racers have won or shared the OVC for seven straight years from 1993-2000. Murray State lost only one key starter last year, and coach Tevester Anderson was looking to fill Justin Burdine’s spot. Chris Shumate, a 6-6 junior has stepped up, in fact he leads Murray State in scoring at 13.1ppg. Antonio Whelchel a 241-pound senior small forward is second to Shumate at 13.0. As you can see the Racers have a well-balanced attack, and are shooting a modest .481 from the field early on.

MSU’s most impressive performance of the season was an 85-39 win over Indiana State. The 46-point margin is the largest of the season and ISU’s 39 points was the lowest output by a Racer opponent since Dec. 14, 1986 when MSU downed Evansville 52-34 in Roberts Stadium. Junior guard Rick Jones is starting to find his shooting touch, coming off the bench to score 47 points in the Racers’ last three games. The Racers will have three more non-conference games before getting into Ohio Valley Conference play. On Dec. 30, the Racers hit the road to take on Memphis, then return home to host MTSU on Jan. 1 and go back on the road to play at Southern Miss on Jan. 4.

Southeast Missouri State Indians

Indian Coach Gary Garner hopes he never has to see a season like last season again. The Indians finished up 6-21, with a first round loss to regular season champions Tennessee Tech. This season Southeast Missouri is 5-5 overall after beating Southwest Missouri State 70-53 on Saturday, Dec. 21. The Indians have additional wins over Central Methodist, Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Oakland City and Missouri-Kansas City. The losses have been to Arkansas State, Indiana State, Tulane, Southern Illinois and Arkansas-Little Rock. Garner went on the recruiting trail, and hoped to add a little age besides talent, as he landed three junior college transfers. Reggie Colson, Dainmon Gonner, and 6-8 230 pound Brandon Griffin. Griffin, the OVC Newcomer of the Week for two weeks in a row, is averaging a double-double with 13.0 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. He is the 18th leading rebounder in the nation. Griffin had 22 points and 11 rebounds against Southern Illinois. Griffin had 14 points and four rebounds against Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 17 points and 11 rebounds against Indiana State and 14 points and eight rebounds vs. Tulane. Griffin had eight rebounds at Arkansas State despite playing only 26 minutes because of foul trouble. Garner was hoping 6-6 junior swingman Damarcus Hence would play to his potential, the spark he implied must be working. Hence is tied for 2nd with Griffin for points, and pulls down five boards a game. Derek Winans, who started all but one game last year as a freshman is leading the team with 14.5 points per game.

Tennessee Martin Skyhawks

Coach Brett Campbell still cant begin to think about the last seasons collapse. I don’t dare to write too much about it for fear of a relapse. Campbell entered this season (his fourth) in a rebuilding mode. The Skyhawks are 6-3 with four starters gone from last year. Campbell is relying on 6-1 guard Earl Bullock to be an impact player, and so far he has more than he asked for. Bullock is averaging slightly more than 20 points. Bullock had 26 points in the Skyhawks’ 101-78 loss to UNLV and followed it up with 24 points in UT Martin’s 92-76 loss to Northern Arizona. Bullock has a 42 percent three-point field goal percentage and has hit 37 this season. He is tied for fifth in the NCAA in three-pointers made per game (5.3). The 6-2 guard comes to UT Martin from Southern Union Community College where he led his team to the state championship. Bullock also leads the team with minutes played with 35.7 per game. Joey Walker and Okechi Egbe are the team’s top returnees. Walker was the third scoring option last season, Campbell feels slightly fortunate that he does not need to be the first this year due to Bullock’s presence. Walker is second in points at 13.8 per game. J.C. Howe is another junior college transfer who Campbell was counting on and has also performed to his liking. Howe had a double-double with 28 points and 10 rebounds in UT Martin’s 116-57 win over Bethel. He came back the next night to score 25 points, including six of the Skyhawks’ final 11 points of the game, and six rebounds in UT Martin’s 63-58 win over Central Florida. Howe is averaging 13.6 points per game and 5.6 rebounds per game. He is also currently tied for 14 in the NCAA in steals per game (3.2). Howe is the only player this season to receive two of the OVC’s weekly honors in the same week. He comes to UT Martin from Dawson Community College where he was an all conference selection in both years there. He averaged 16 points and eight rebounds last season. The Skyhawks are volunteering to play at Knoxville on Saturday when they take on Tennessee.

Tennessee State Tigers

The Tigers have been quietly creeping up the OVC ranks the last few years. Yes I said quietly, and yes they have a coach named Nolan Richardson. You may ask how a Nolan Richardson can do anything quietly; it is possible this apple rolled down a hill after it fell far from the tree. Nolan Richardson III hopes the Tigers are ready to take that big step. This is the year, this is his team, and these are now his recruits. Second team All-OVC and coach’s nephew Garret Richardson returns for his junior season. Richardson the coach moved Richardson the former point guard to shooting guard to capitalize on his scoring potential. It has been somewhat effective, as Richardson is averaging 10.3 points, and 4.7 boards per game. The Tigers would like to get Brandon Lockridge to be able get off more from long range. Lockridge is a shot waiting to happen, and with Richardson moving to the point that means 6-3 senior Josh Cooperwood can get extra time with some minutes coming in a three guard lineup. The fact is that team goals are not materializing for TSU, they are off to what they feel is a sub-par 2-6 record. Lets not forget that Richardson felt this is the year the Tigers can make that momentous leap. After getting a victory in their first game over Trevecca Nazrne, the Tigers lost their next five games. The Tigers split their next two and now are a dismal 2-6. Look for TSU to go to 2-7 as they head into Lexington to take on the Wildcats of Kentucky on Dec. 30th.

Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles

Congratulations on your coach’s Success! Three consecutive OVC Coach-of-the-Year awards, oops sorry Coach Lebo has departed . . . my bad. Mike Sutton takes over as head coach after 27 years as a high school, and Division 1 assistant. Expectations are high, and shoes will need to be filled for success. Tennessee Tech pushed then #23 Cincinnati to the edge in their opener before falling 54-48. Cameron Crisp had 16 points for the Golden Eagles, who held as much as a six-point lead midway through the second half. Greg Morgan chipped in 13 points. Cameron Crisp took over the point when Leigh Gayden fractured his wrist last year. Crisp is second on the team in scoring to Damien Kinloch. Kinloch is in his senior season after making the first team All-OVC last season. The Golden Eagles won their next four consecutive after their heartbreaker at Cincinnati. Led by double-doubles from seniors Antwyon Jones and Damien Kinloch, the Golden Eagles extended their home winning streak to 33 games, the second longest current Division I streak, with a 75-60 victory over the Mean Green of North Texas State University. Brent Jolly scored all of his 10 points during the last 4:09 of the game as he broke the 1,000 career-point mark, becoming the 25th Golden Eagle at that level. Led by Kinloch and Jones, Tech out-rebounded the Mean Green by a 44-29 mark and grabbed 19 offensive rebounds, leading to many second chance points. The victory raised the Golden Eagles record to 5-4 on the season as they prepare for the Rainbow Classic in Hawaii December 27-30.


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