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Ohio Valley Notebook

March 4, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments



Ohio Valley Conference Notebook

by Zach Van Hart

The tango for the title

It all came down to the regular season finale between Austin Peay and Morehead State to decide the OVC regular season championship and the No. 1 seed for the conference tournament. Playing on their home court, the Governors were not going to be denied. Austin Peay overcame a six-point second half deficit to defeat the Eagles, 76-64. With the win, both squads finished the regular season with 13-3 conference records. But by virtue of sweeping the head-to-head series, the Governors received the No. 1 seed for the conference tourney.

Once again, Austin Peay’s defense shut down Morehead’s potent offense. The Eagles entered the game averaging 81.9 points per game and shooting 51.4 percent from the field, both first in the conference. But Chez Marks, Ricky Minard and company was no match. Minard finished with eighteen points and Marks finished with thirteen, both of which are four points less than their season average.

The Eagles made a push during the first ten minutes of the second half, turning a six-point halftime deficit into a six-point lead. But the Govs then went to work and finally took the lead for good on a Rhet Wierzba jumper, making the score 57-56. Junior center Josh Lewis led the Governors, shooting 9-of-11 from the field to finish with a game-high 20 points.

Leapfrogged

Murray State entered the final week of the regular season trailing Eastern Illinois by one game in the standings. Yet they knew with two wins and one Panther loss they would catapult over them by virtue of sweeping the season series. Well, Eastern Illinois did their part and the Racers held up their part of the bargain as well. Despite Henry Domercant scoring 46 points, the Panthers could not withstand Tennessee Tech Saturday as they lost, 97-84.

This set the stage for the Racers and they did not disappoint. After disposing of Tennessee State easily Monday, 100-79, Murray State needed to win against Tennessee Martin to claim the No. 4 seed. The game was never in doubt as the Racers cruised to an 80-59 win. Cuthbert Victor led the team, scoring 23 points and grabbing thirteen rebounds. Rick Jones equaled Victor with 23 points and James Singleton recorded his third-straight double-double, scoring twelve points and collecting thirteen rebounds. The reason moving up to the No. 4 seed was so important is that the top four seeds play the quarterfinals on their home court, meaning Eastern Illinois must travel to the Racers’ home floor Tuesday.

Finishing strong

One of the hottest teams going into the conference tournament is Tennessee Tech. The Golden Eagles enter Tuesday’s quarterfinal match with Tennessee Martin riding a four-game winning streak, during which they won by an average of sixteen and a half points per game. They are averaging more than 90 points per game and are shooting 55 percent from the field.

During the Eagles’ 97-84 win against Eastern Illinois, the always dangerous Cameron Crisp stole the show. He scored 26 points and dropped eleven dimes, finishing with his first double-double of the season. Prior to Saturday’s win, Damien Kinloch had led the team in scoring for the last three games. With Crisp, Kinloch and center Brent Jolly all producing, the Eagles could be the sleeper team in the conference tournament.

Out of control

Henry Domercant has played like a man possessed this season. During the regular season finale Saturday, he took his game to another level. Domercant scored a career-high 46 points during the Panthers loss to Tennessee Tech. When the team jogged to the locker room at halftime, it did not appear to be a great day for Domercant. In fact, it seemed to be a bad game by his standards. His stat line only read ten points, off the pace of his near 28 points per game average. However, the second half was a much, much different story.

He exploded, scoring 36 during the final 20 minutes. For the game he made 12-of-20 shots from the field, including 8-of-14 from beyond the arc, to go along with 14-of-17 shooting from the charity stripe. His outburst left him fifteen points shy of the all-time scoring mark in the OVC. The current mark is 2.583 points, held by Akron’s Joe Jakubick.

Shut out

Tennessee State had three opportunities last week to finally crack the win column in the OVC. They lost every game, shutting them out for the regular season. The Tigers finished the year 2-25 overall, 0-16 in conference play and losers of their last 21 games. The most embarrassing season during the program’s history is now in the books. Between their former coach being fired for bring a gun onto campus, from a fight that resulted in nineteen players getting ejected, to the first women to coach a men’s Division I basketball game, to the continuous losing, this has been a season to remember. Actually, make that one not to remember for Tennessee State fans. Well, like they always say, wait till next year.

Conference Tournament Preview

Quarterfinals start Tuesday evening, with the top four seeds hosting their respected game. No. 8 seed Eastern Kentucky travels to face top seed Austin Peay, No. 7 seed SE Missouri State travels to Morehead to face the No. 2 seed Eagles, No. 6 seed Tennessee Martin goes to No. 3 seed Tennessee Tech and No. 5 seed Eastern Illinois travels south to play No. 4 seed Murray State.

All four of the top seeds swept the season series against their respected opponents and with each game on their home court, should follow suit.

The semifinals take place Friday evening at the Gaylord Entertainment Center in Nashville, Tennessee. The championship game is Saturday at 4 p.m., televised live on ESPN2.

Despite their good play of late, the Racers will not be able to hang with Austin Peay in the first semifinal. This is where it starts to get interesting. Morehead owned Tennessee Tech during the regular season, winning both games. But the Golden Eagles have been on fire on offense lately, while Morehead is not a defensive team. It’s awfully hard to beat a team three times during one season and I don’t see it happening here either.

But feel a little bit better Morehead fans, because your Eagles are going to lose to the eventual conference champs. While the Governors are playing solid, Tennessee Tech will carry their momentum straight on through to the championship game and into the Big Dance.

     

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