Ohio Valley Conference Notebook
by Jeff Smith
February 14 means hearts, love and
Valentines for most of the free world, but not so this past Saturday night
for 6,000 plus fans of the Austin Peay Governors or the Murray State Racers.
The two teams met for a regular season showdown at the Dave Aaron Arena in
Clarksville, Tenn., for all the marbles in the regular season OVC
Austin Peay entered the home contest sporting a 12-0 OVC
record and the fifth-longest home winning streak in the NCAA at 24 games.
The Racers came to town with an equally impressive 10-1 mark in conference
play, having their lone conference loss come at home against Samford Jan.
The game featured the OVC’s top-rated offense – Murray State – against
the top-rated defense – Austin Peay – and in the end, Austin Peay held on
for a 63-56 victory to remain firmly in the driver’s seat for the top spot
in the OVC at 13-0 with three games left. If Austin Peay can go undefeated
over the final three contests, it would mark the first time an OVC team has
gone undefeated in conference play since the 1969-70 season when Western
Kentucky, now of the Sun Belt, went 14-0. Since going to a 16-game format,
three teams have managed a 15-1 conference mark with the most recent being
Tennessee Tech in 2001-02.
News Around the League
Senior forward Ricky
Minard of the Morehead State Eagles had his number retired during senior
night pre-game festivities prior to the beginning of the contest against
Samford. The award was presented by former Eagle player Herbie Stamper who
formally held the all-time scoring record, which Minard broke earlier this
Austin Peay, Murray State, and Morehead State have each qualified
for the OVC tournament, which features the conference’s best eight teams.
Austin Peay is guaranteed one of the top four seeds, which means the
Governors will host an opening round game on March 2. The semifinals and
finals will be held March 5 and 6 at the Municipal Auditorium in Nashville,
Several OVC players hold high spots in national NCAA statistical
categories. Murray State senior forward Cuthbert Victor is ranked fourth
nationally with 10.8 rebounds per outing.
Victor is one of three OVC
players ranked among the Top 30 in the NCAA in field goal shooting
percentage. Eastern Kentucky’s Jon Bentley is fourth (64.7 percent),
followed by Victor (63.5 percent) in fifth and Southeast Missouri State’s
Brandon Griffin in 29th (57.3 percent). Samford’s Tyson Dorsey is third in
three-point field-goal percentage (48.3 percent).
Two OVC players rank
among the nation’s Top 40 scorers, led by Tennessee Tech’s Willie Jenkins
coming in at 19th with 20.9 points per contest, followed by Morehead State’s
Ricky Minard at 26th with 20.3 points per game.
Tennessee State’s Garrett
Richardson is 11th in steals with 2.8 per game, while Jacksonville State’s
Walker Russell is 16th in assists averaging 6.2 per outing. Austin Peay ‘s
Josh Lewis is 21st in the country with 2.4 blocks per game.
OVC Players of the Week
Senior forward Jon Bentley of Eastern
Kentucky was named OVC Player of the Week after averaging 70 percent from
the field on 21-of-30 shooting to lead EKU to a 3-0 record for the
Newcomer of the Week honors went to junior forward Willie Jenkins of
Tennessee Tech who averaged 20 points and 9.5 rebounds in a loss to Murray
State and a win over Tennessee-Martin.
Tennessee State freshman guard
Bruce Price was the pick for Rookie of the Week honors after averaging 19
points per game as the Tigers went 2-1 in conference play for the week.
Price shot 53.3 percent, pulled down 11 rebounds and dished out 11 assists
over the three games.
Game of the Week
This week’s game of the week
features the Austin Peay Governors at the Samford Bulldogs. Austin Peay
hopes to continue their run toward a perfect season in the OVC when they
travel to Birmingham, Ala., sporting a 13-0 conference mark.
features the conference’s best defense in Austin Peay against the third-best
shooting team in the nation in Samford. Samford, under the tutelage of head
coach Jimmy Tillette, runs the fabled Princeton offense, which consists of
constant motion and picks. The game likely will total less than 100 points
combined as both teams play a deliberate, grind-it-out offensive style.
Samford will have to shoot lights out from three to have any chance at
winning the game, as Austin Peay proved it could handle the slashing
backdoor cuts so common in the Princeton scheme earlier this season. In the
first outing, Peay handled Samford 61-56 at home.
Austin Peay Governors (16-7 overall, 13-0 OVC):
League-leading Austin Peay became
the first team to clinch a home game for the first round of the 2004 OVC
tournament with wins over Tennessee-Martin, 79-55, and Murray State, 63-56).
Senior forward Adrian Henning recorded his fourth double-double of the
season with 14 points and 10 rebounds against the Racers. Junior guard
Anthony Davis dished out five assists in the Tennessee-Martin contest as the
Governors tallied a season-high 20 assists. Senior guard Rhet Wierzba scored
in double figures for just the second and third time in OVC action this
season with 11 points versus Tennessee-Martin and 10 against Murray State.
Austin Peay was nearly automatic at the free-throw line, converting
36-of-42 attempts (85.7 percent) in the two contests. The Governors’ 13-game
win streak matches the longest in the program’s Division I history, while
their 25-game home win streak is the fifth-longest active stretch in the
NCAA. Austin Peay has won 16 consecutive OVC regular-season contests and 19
straight over conference opposition, including OVC tournament play, dating
back to last season.
The Govs close out the road portion of their OVC
schedule at Samford, then visit Wichita State Feb. 21 for a non-conference
meeting with the Shockers as part of ESPN’s Bracket Buster Series.
Eastern Illinois Panthers (5-17 overall, 3-9 OVC):
Eastern Illinois split a pair
of OVC road games last week, claiming an 89-85 victory at Southeast Missouri
State before dropping a 75-68 decision at Tennessee State. Senior center
Jesse Mackinson made his first 10 field goals en route to a career-high 29
points against Southeast Missouri State. He also had 19 points at Tennessee
State, finishing the week 17-of-20 (85 percent) from the floor and 14-of-16
(87.5 percent) from the foul line.
Junior guard Derik Hollyfield had a
solid all-around effort at Southeast, collecting 13 points, seven rebounds
and five assists. Sophomore guard Josh Gomes added 17 points at Tennessee
State. The Panthers shot a season-high 69.6 percent (32-of-46) from the
field at Southeast Missouri State, including a blistering 79.2 percent
(19-of-24) in the first half, to snap a 12-game road losing streak. The
Panthers went just 4-of-19 (21 percent) from three-point range in the loss
to the Tigers. Tied for ninth in the league standings, Eastern Illinois
wraps up the home portion of its regular-season slate with a three-game
stand. The Panthers step out of league play for a date with Florida Gulf
Coast, then entertain OVC foes Morehead State and Eastern Kentucky.
Eastern Kentucky Colonels (11-12 overall, 6-6 OVC):
Eastern Kentucky extended its
home win streak to four games, defeating Tennessee State 68-65, Samford
63-43 and Jacksonville State 82-75. Senior forward Jon Bentley turned in his
second double double in three games with 10 points and 10 rebounds against
Samford. For the week, he averaged 16.7 points per game and seven rebounds
per game while shooting 70 percent from the floor (21-of-30). Through games
as of Feb. 9, Bentley ranked fourth in the nation with a 64.7 percent field
goal shooting percentage.
Sophomore point guard Matt Witt converted 3-of-6
trey attempts against Tennessee State, including the game winner with six
seconds left on the clock. He nailed a career-high six three pointers versus
the Bulldogs and finished the week 8-of-15 from behind the arc. Witt moved
into Eastern Kentucky’s career Top 10 for both three-pointers made (106) and
attempted (280). Bentley is seven points shy of scoring 1,000 for his
career, while junior forward Michael Haney sits eight rebounds away from
becoming the 24th Colonel player with 500 career boards. The Colonels shot a
season-high 56.3 percent (9-of-16) from behind the arc against the Bulldogs.
Eastern Kentucky’s three-game win streak ties its longest of the season.
The fifth-place Colonels visit Southeast Missouri State and Eastern
Jacksonville State Gamecocks (11-13 overall, 4-9 OVC):
Jacksonville State sits in eighth place after going 0-4 on its recent
four-game road stretch, which ended with losses to Morehead State, 81-73,
and Eastern Kentucky, 82-75. The Gamecocks are 2-11 away from home in
Senior forward Trent Eager did all of his scoring in the second
half of both contests, finishing with 19 points versus Morehead and 21
against Eastern Kentucky. He also hauled in 15 rebounds for the week,
including 10 on the offensive glass.
Junior forward Walker Russell dished
out nine assists in the two games. He leads the conference and ranks 16th
nationally with six assists each time out. Five Gamecocks are scoring in
double figures, with three of them also averaging at least five rebounds per
game. Junior forward Carl Brown sat out both games with an ankle injury.
Jacksonville State plays its last three regular-season games at home,
starting with Tennessee Tech.
Morehead State Eagles (13-10 overall, 8-4
Morehead State defeated Jacksonville State 81-73 and Samford 65-52
to post a 4-0 mark during its final regular-season homestand. Senior
forward/guard Ricky Minard, who had his jersey retired as part of senior
night festivities Saturday, averaged 24 points, 10.5 rebounds and 5.5
assists per game in the two victories. He has registered double doubles in
three of the last four games. With at least five games remaining this
season, Minard has a good chance to finish his career ranked as high as
fourth place on the OVC’s all-time scoring chart. He is currently in eighth
place with 2,225 points.
Junior center Chad McKnight recorded a double-dip
of 14 points and 10 boards versus Jacksonville State. He followed that with
13 points and seven caroms against Samford. Sophomore guard Quinton Smith
went 4-of-6 from three-point range as part of a 7-of-13 shooting effort in
the two contests. He averaged 11 points and four assists during the same
Senior guard Chez Marks suffered a reirritation of the meniscus
in his left knee during the Samford contest and will miss the remainder of
the season. Marks, who was averaging 17 points per contest this year, ends
his career ranked 18th on the school’s all-time scoring list (1,187). The
third-place Eagles play their last four OVC games on the road, starting with
trips to Eastern Illinois and Southeast Missouri State.
Murray State Racers
(20-5 overall, 10-2 OVC):
Murray State split its OVC road contests last
week, defeating Tennessee Tech 90-78, before dropping a 63-56 decision at
Senior forward Antione Whelchel went 7-of-10 at the
free-throw line as he collected his third double double of the season with
16 points and 12 rebounds at Tennessee Tech. He is averaging 14 points per
outing and 7.8 rebounds per game over the last five contests. Junior forward
Kelvin Brown and senior guard Chris Shumate each had 18 points in the
Tennessee Tech contest. Brown went 8-of-10 from the field and added five
assists, while Shumate canned four treys and also collected seven boards and
Junior point guard Adam Chiles suffered a shoulder injury
scrambling for a loose ball at Austin Peay and will not play this week.
With the win at Tech, the Racers reached the 20-win plateau for the 21st
time in school history and first since 1999-00. The loss at Austin Peay
ended Murray State’s eight-game OVC win streak. Second-place Murray State
plays its final regular-season road game at Tennessee-Martin then returns
home to begin a four-game stand with Tennessee State.
(10-13 overall, 5-7 OVC):
Samford has lost four in a row for the first
time this season following road setbacks at Eastern Kentucky, 63-43, and
Morehead State, 65-52. Senior guard Eddie Harper was the only Bulldog to
average double figures in the two contests after dropping in 19 against the
Head coach Jimmy Tillette shook up his starting lineup for
Saturday’s meeting with Morehead State as reserves Sebastian Sachse, Josh
Hare and Randall Gulina made their first starts of the season. Senior guard
Tyson Dorsey saw his streak of 22 consecutive starts end, while senior
center Phillip Ramelli came off the bench for the first time in three years.
Prior to Saturday, he had started all 78 of the games in which he played,
missing two other contests due to injury.
The Bulldogs have shot under 40
percent from the field only four times this season after going 14-of-40 at
EKU (season-low 35 percent) and 21-of-55 (38.2 percent) at Morehead State.
Samford, which entered the week ranked third in the NCAA in field goal
percentage, saw its average slip from 50.8 to 49.5 percent. The Bulldogs
were just 12-of-50 (24 percent) from three-point range last week, well under
their league-leading season average of 39 percent.
Tied for sixth, Samford
returns home for a pair of meetings with Austin Peay and Tennessee Tech, the
latter of which will be regionally televised on Fox Sports Net South Feb. 21
at 2 p.m. central time. Mike Hogewood will provide play-by-play, while Tom
Apke will provide color analysis.
Southeast Missouri Indians (10-13
overall, 3-9 OVC):
Southeast Missouri State’s bad luck in close OVC
contests continued last week as the Indians dropped a pair of four-point
decisions against Eastern Illinois, 89-85, and Tennessee State, 90-86. Seven
of Southeast State’s nine OVC losses this season have been by six points or
Junior forward Dainmon Gonner hauled in a career-high 12 rebounds on
the way to his second double double of the season during the Tennessee State
contest. He is averaging 20.3 points and 7.8 rebounds per contest over the
last four outings. All nine of junior guard Mike Nelke’s field goals last
week came from behind the arc as he averaged 15 points per game.
center Brandon Griffin suffered a severely sprained ankle at Tennessee State
and is not expected to play this week. Griffin went 7-of-10 from the field
and hit all four of his free-throw attempts for 18 points and nine boards
against Eastern Illinois.
Senior guard Damarcus Hence is listed as
probable despite a sore knee that kept him out of most of the second half of
the Tennessee State contest. Hence had 14 points and six rebounds in 12
minutes of play before being sidelined.
Tied for ninth in the OVC
standings, the Indians plays their final two home games of the regular
season against Eastern Kentucky and Morehead State.
Tennessee-Martin Skyhawks (8-16 overall, 3-9 OVC):
Tennessee-Martin is on
a four-game slide after ending its recent road stretch with losses at Austin
Peay, 72-64, and Tennessee Tech, 64-61.
Sophomore guard/forward Jared
Newson tossed in 20 points at Austin Peay and registered his third double
double of the season with 25 points and 12 rebounds at Tennessee Tech. A 69
percent free-throw shooter, Newson went 15-of-18 (83.3 percent) from the
charity stripe in the two contests, including 13-of-15 versus
Sophomore guard Cleve Woodfork went 7-of-9 from the field against the
Govs, finishing with 14 points and seven boards off the bench. Fifth-year
head coach Bret Campbell has yet to defeat Tech as the Skyhawks have lost 14
straight to the Golden Eagles, including OVC tournament meetings.
ninth in the OVC standings, Tennessee-Martin closes out the regular season
with a four-game homestand, starting with Murray State and Tennessee
Tennessee State Tigers (6-17 overall, 5-7 OVC):
played a trio of close OVC outings last week, coming out on the winning end
of two of them. The Tigers opened the week with a 68-65 heartbreaking loss
at Eastern Kentucky before closing out the home portion of their
regular-season schedule with wins over Eastern Illinois, 78-75, and
Southeast Missouri State, 90-86.
Junior forward Roshaun Bowens scored 28
points against the Indians. Thirty-two of his 46 points in the two victories
were second-half tallies. For the week, he shot 51.1 percent from the field
while averaging 18.7 points, eight rebounds and 3.3 assists per game.
Freshman guard Bruce Price converted 8-of-15 three pointers and 21-of-29
free throws over the three games, finishing the week with 19 points per
Junior forward/guard Jeremy Jackson dropped in a career-high 23
points versus Eastern Illinois, including 16 in the second half. All 26 of
senior reserve Brandon Lockridge’s field goals this season have come from
behind the arc. He currently ranks eighth on the school’s list for career
treys with 78.
The Tigers shot a blistering 72.7 percent from the field in
the second half of the Southeast Missouri State contest. Tennessee State,
which ranks seventh in the league in free throw shooting (67.6 percent),
converted 22-of-25 (88 percent) foul shots against the Indians.
sixth in the league standings, the Tigers end the regular-season with four
straight road games, beginning with trips to Murray State and UT
Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles (13-10 overall, 7-5 OVC):
Tech sits in fourth place after splitting a pair of OVC tilts at home,
dropping a 90-78 decision to Murray State but bouncing back for a 64-61 win
Junior forward Willie Jenkins netted his seventh
double double of the season against Tennessee-Martin, scoring 13 points and
tying a career-high with 14 rebounds. Sophomore guard Milone Clark canned
four treys as he matched a career-best with 23 points versus
Senior guard Cameron Crisp drained four long balls as
part of a 16-point effort against the Racers, while sophomore reserve Keyon
Boyd also had four treys, finishing with 14 points and six assists.
Tennessee Tech is 11-3 at home in 2003-04 and 53-4 in the Eblen Center
during the last four years. The Golden Eagles visit Jacksonville State and
Samford as they embark on their final road stretch of the regular season.