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Ohio Valley Notebook

March 2, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments



Ohio Valley Conference Notebook

by Jeff Smith

The regular season came to an end last weekend for the Ohio Valley Conference, and it was a season of firsts. Austin Peay (19-8, 16-0) became the first school to go undefeated in conference play since the 1960-70 season when Western Kentucky went 14-0. No team in the OVC had gone undefeated since the conference went to a 16-game format.

The 2003-04 season was the first in the OVC for newcomers Samford and Jacksonville State. In their first seasons, both squads finished in the top eight in conference play and qualified for the conference tournament.

This season was also the first for Murray State head coach Mick Cronin as a head coach at the Division I level. Cronin came to Murray after having served stints as an assistant coach at Cincinnati under Bob Huggins and most recently was the associate head coach to Rick Pitino at Louisville. In his very first season, Cronin guided the Racers to a 25-5 regular season record and a 14-2 mark and second place finish in the OVC.

News Around the League

Austin Peay, Murray State, Morehead State, Eastern Kentucky, Samford, Jacksonville State, Tennessee Tech, and Tennessee State are the top eight qualifiers, from first to eighth, who will compete for the OVC tournament title and the leagues automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. First round games will be held March 2 at the top four seeds’ home sites, with the semifinals and finals being held March 5 and 6 at the Municipal Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee.

Murray State senior forward Cuthbert Victor was named to the National Association of Basketball Coaches’ All-District Team. Victor, a 6-5 senior from St. Croix, Virgin Islands, was selected to the District 7 first-team along with Matt Frieje of Vanderbilt, Francisco Garcia of Louisville and Gerald Fitch and Erik Daniels of Kentucky. NABC member coaches selected 150 student-athletes from 15 districts, and each player selected is eligible for the Division I All-American Team. With the selection, Victor becomes the 26th Racer to be named to the NABC All-District Team, and first first-team member since Isaac Spencer was selected first-team in 2000. Murray State has had more players selected to the All-District team than any other OVC school. Last season, former Racer James Singleton was a second-team District 7 selection. Seniors Ricky Minard of Morehead State and Adrian Henning of Austin Peay represent the OVC on the District 7 second-team, along with Scooter McFagdon of Tennessee, Antonio Burks of Memphis and Chuck Hayes of Kentucky.

Murray State University inducted former basketball standout Jeff Martin to its 101-member athletic Hall of Fame during halftime ceremonies of the Feb. 28 home contest with Eastern Illinois. The greatest scorer in the 79-year history of Racer basketball, the Cherry Valley, Ark., native scored a school-record 2,484 points. To this day, no Division I player in Kentucky has scored as many points as Martin.

The OVC continues to place teams and players among the nation’s best in several statistical categories. In team field-goal percentage, Murray State ranked seventh with 49.1 percent, Samford came in at eighth with 49.0 percent, while Morehead was 12th at 47.9 percent.

Murray State was ninth in the nation in scoring offense, averaging 80.8 points per contest, was 15th in scoring margin, beating teams by an average of 12.0 points per game and ranked 13th in team winning percentage at 83.3 percent.

The OVC placed three teams among the nation’s elite in three pointers per game, with Samford leading the way at number four with 9.5 per game. Tennessee State and Tennessee Tech were tied for 25th with 8.0 treys per game. Samford also is ranked 17th in three-point percentage, averaging 39.4 percent from long range.

Austin Peay’s 58.7 points per game rounds out the OVC’s national statistical leaders, coming in at 10th best nationally.

Murray State senior Cuthbert Victor leads OVC national statistical leaders, coming in at number four nationally in rebounding with 10.6 boards per game.

The OVC places three individuals among the nation’s best in field-goal percentage, with Eastern Kentucky’s Jon Bentley leading the way at number six at 64.4 percent. Murray’s Cuthbert Victor is 10th at 61.1 percent, while Austin Peay’s Josh Lewis is 24th at 59.8 percent.

The OVC also places Morehead State senior Ricky Minard at number 15 nationally in scoring, averaging 21.1 points per game. Jacksonville State’s Walker Russell is 11th in assists with 6.4 per game, while Peay’s Josh Lewis is averaging 2.6 blocks per contest, good for 20th best.

OVC Players of the Week

Sophomore Matt Witt was named OVC player of the Week after shooting an amazing 52.9 percent from the field and scoring 25 points in a road victory at Southeast Missouri State. In EKU’s next game, the six-foot point guard put up 23 points to secure another road win at Eastern Illinois.

Jacksonville State sophomore point guard Walker Russell earns his first OVC Newcomer of the Week honor after scoring 11 points and dishing out 13 assists in Jacksonville State’s 80-59 win versus Tennessee Tech. The double-double effort was Russell’s fourth of the season.

Tennessee State freshman guard Bruce Price was named OVC Rookie of the Week for the sixth time this season. Price averaged 20 points, six rebounds and four assists for the Tigers as they split a pair of OVC games. After pulling down a career-high 11 rebounds in a loss to Murray State, Price canned six treys and scored 31 points in a win versus Tennessee-Martin.

Team Reports:

Austin Peay Governors (19-8, 16-0):

Austin Peay traveled to Wichita State as part of ESPN’s bracket buster weekend and left on the short end, falling 62-47. Wichita dominated the glass, outrebounding Austin Peay 37-17. Free-throw shooting was the key stat of the contest, as Wichita hit 16-of-19, compared to 2-of-3 for the Governors.

Austin Peay completed its amazing unblemished run through the OVC winning a pair of conference home games against Tennessee Tech and Eastern Kentucky. The Governors blew out the Tennessee Tech 88-64, after forcing Tech into 20 turnovers and blocking 7 Golden Eagle shots. Austin Peay placed four starters in double figures and shot 51.9 percent, defeating EKU 81-64 to complete the 16-game run through the OVC.

No. 1 seed Austin Peay will host No. 8 seed Tennessee State in the first round of the tournament March 2.

Eastern Illinois Panthers (6-21, 4-12):

Eastern Illinois lost its last three conference games to finish in 10th place in the OVC. This marks the first time since joining the OVC for the 1996-97 season that the Panthers have failed to qualify for the OVC tournament.

The Panthers defeated Morehead State at home Feb. 19, 76-59, before losing a home contest to Eastern Kentucky, 71-67. Eastern Illinois rounded out conference play on the road in disappointing fashion with two losses. Tennessee-Martin defeated the Panthers, 77-73, and Murray State ended Eastern Illinois’ season with an 81-51 victory.

Eastern Kentucky Colonels (13-14, 8-8):

Eastern Kentucky ended the regular season by dropping their final two games, losing to Morehead State by a score of 80-71 and their regular season finale at Austin Peay, 81-64.

With the two defeats, the Colonels finish as the No. 4 seed and in the last spot to host a first-round tournament game. No. 5 seed Samford will be the Colonels’ first-round opponent March 2.

Jacksonville State Gamecocks (14-13, 7-9):

Jacksonville State finished up its first regular season as a member of the OVC with three straight home victories, defeating Tennessee Tech, Samford and Tennessee State by an average of 19 points.

The Gamecocks went from a tie for eighth to the No. 6 seed in the conference tournament and will travel to No. 3 seed Morehead State in the first round of the conference tournament.

Morehead State Eagles (15-12, 10-6):

Morehead State used a pair of road victories to end the season in the No. 3 spot heading into tournament play. The Eagles defeated Eastern Kentucky by a score of 80-71 and nipped Tennessee Tech, 90-86, to stay two games ahead of No. 4 seed Eastern Kentucky.

Morehead State faces No. 6 seed Jacksonville State in the OVC tournament first round March 2 at Morehead.

Murray State Racers (25-5, 14-2):

Murray State wrapped up the regular season with a non-conference defeat of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Feb. 23. The Racers 73-53 win avenged an earlier loss to the Islanders at Corpus Christi. The Racers wrapped up conference play at home with a pair of victories over Southeast Missouri State and Eastern Illinois.

The Racers hold the No. 2 seed in the OVC and will host No. 7 seed Tennessee Tech March 2 in the opening round of the conference tournament.

Samford Bulldogs (12-15, 7-9):

Samford ended its first season of OVC play by winning two of the team’s last three to finish with the No. 5 seed in the conference tournament. The Bulldogs captured home wins over Tennessee Tech and Tennessee State, with a loss at Jacksonville State sandwiched between the two victories.

Samford travels to Richmond, Ky., to take on the No. 4 seeded Eastern Kentucky Colonels in the conference’s opening round March 2.

Southeast Missouri State Indians (11-16, 4-12):

Southeast Missouri State dropped three of its last four regular season conference games to finish in the last spot in the conference and out of contention for post-season play. This marks the first time since its eligibility for the conference tournament that the Indians have failed to qualify for the eight-team field.

The Indians split at home with Eastern Kentucky and Morehead State, then dropped road games at Murray State and Tennessee-Martin.

Tennessee-Martin Skyhawks (11-18, 5-11):

Tennessee-Martin ended its season with home victories over Eastern Illinois and Southeast Missouri but ended out of the top eight and out of the conference tournament. The Skyhawks have participated in the last four conference tournaments.

Tennessee State Tigers (7-20, 6-10):

Tennessee State closed out the regular season with losses at Samford and Jacksonville State but managed to hold on to the eighth and final conference spot. The Tigers return to the tournament after missing the cut at the conclusion of last season.

The Tigers travels to Clarksville, Tenn., to take on the No. 1 seeded Governors of Austin Peay in the first round of the conference tournament March 2.

Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles (13-14, 7-9):

Tennessee Tech dropped from the No. 4 seed, and hosting a first round tournament game, to the No. 7 seed with four straight conference losses. The Golden Eagles lost road games at Jacksonville State, Samford and Austin Peay, and a home contest against Morehead State.

The Golden Eagles travel to Murray, Ky., to take on the No. 2 seed Murray State Racers March 2 in the tournament’s first round.

     

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