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Ohio Valley Quarterfinals Preview

March 3, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments

Ohio Valley Conference Quarterfinals Preview

Preview by Jeff Smith

The Ohio Valley Conference is made up of 11 schools, of which only the top eight at the end of regular season play advance to the conference tournament. The top four seeds host the quarterfinals, with the winners traveling to Nashville, Tennessee’s Municipal Auditorium for the semifinals and finals.

No. 8 Tennessee State (7-20, 6-10) at No. 1 Austin Peay State (19-8, 16-0)
Regular-season champion Austin Peay closed out its conference run undefeated with wins over Tennessee Tech, 88-64, and Eastern Kentucky, 81-64. The victory over EKU marked APSU’s 27th consecutive win in the Dunn Center, setting a school record and ranking as the nation’s fourth-longest active home win streak. Senior center Josh Lewis has recorded 15 blocked shots over the last three games, including six versus TTU. Lewis has tallied seven six-block outings over his career and currently sits three shy of 250. Lewis, averaging nine points and 10 rebounds and senior forward Adrian Henning averaging 14 points and nine rebounds, just missed double-doubles against TTU. Versus EKU, Henning scored 15 second-half points, en route to his second 20-point effort of the season. APSU, which entered the week ranked last in the OVC in scoring and ninth in field goal shooting, rolled up 80 points in both games last week, hitting better than 50 percent from the field in each contest. The Govs have won 19 straight regular-season OVC games, and 30 of their last 31, dating back to the 2002-03 season. They enter postseason play with a 22-game win streak against OVC opposition, including tourney contests. Head coach Dave Loos will be looking for his 300th career coaching victory when top-seeded APSU hosts No. 8 Tennessee State in first-round OVC Tournament action. The Governors and Tigers played only once during the regular season.

Tennessee State finished off the regular-season portion of its schedule with identical 86-70 road losses at Samford and Jacksonville State, but will still qualify for the OVC Tournament as the number 8 seed. Junior forward Roshaun Bowens averaged 22.5 points and 9.5 rebounds a game last week, scoring 35 of his 45 points in the second halves of each contest. Freshman guard Bruce Price contributed 16 points per game while also handing out nine assists and grabbing 10 rebounds in the two contests. Senior guard Garrett Richardson netted a season-high 22 points at JSU. Under the direction of first-year coach Cy Alexander, the Tigers are making an OVC tourney appearance after a one-year absence. TSU, picked to finish last in the OVC in preseason balloting, posted a 6-10 record in league action for an eighth-place effort.

No. 7 Tennessee Tech (13-14, 7-9) at No. 2 Murray State (25-5, 14-2)
Murray State enters postseason play having won its last five and 10 of its last 11 following a non-conference victory over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi,73-53, and OVC triumphs versus Southeast Missouri, 76-63, and Eastern Illinois, 81-51. Senior forward Cuthbert Victor tallied his 13th double-double of the season and 29th of his career with 22 points and 13 rebounds against TAMCC. He also matched a career-high with six blocked shots in the contest to lead the Racers’ school-record 13-block effort. The Racers’ all-time shot blocker, Victor has 156 career swats. Freshman forward Shawn Witherspoon went 12-of-17 for 70.6 percent in the two OVC contests, averaging 13.5 points and six rebounds a game off the bench. The Racers are 5-0 since the loss of starting junior point guard Adam Chiles. Chiles suffered a shoulder injury in a February 14 contest at Austin Peay and is sidelined indefinitely. Murray State leads the league with an 80.8 scoring average. The Racers are 157-8 over the last 10 years when scoring 80+ points. The Racers won a road contest at Tech in their only in-season meeting.

Tennessee Tech dropped contests to Austin Peay, 88-64, and Morehead State, 90-86, to finish the regular-season on a four-game slide for the first time since the 1990-91 campaign. Junior forward Willie Jenkins, the league’s second-ranked scorer this season at 19.4 points per contest, is on pace to post the Golden Eagles’ best scoring average since 1955 when Kenny Sidwell averaged 21.3 points per game. Jenkins, a UMass transfer, has netted double-figures in 25 of 26 outings in his first year in the OVC. Senior guard Cameron Crisp went 6-of-6 from the free throw line at APSU, marking his 10th perfect outing this season. He has converted 57 of 71 foul attempts, 80.3 percent, thus far in 2003-04. Sophomore reserve Milone Clark tossed in 16 points versus Morehead State, hitting four three-pointers as part of a 6-of-10 field shooting effort. The Golden Eagles, who finished in a three-way tie for fifth place in the OVC standings but lost the tiebreaker, are seeded seventh for the OVC Tournament. Tech lost the teams’ only in-season meeting with Murray in Cookeville.

No. 6 Jacksonville State (14-13, 7-9) at No. 3 Morehead State (15-12, 10-6)
Morehead State closed out regular-season action with back-to-back road wins over Eastern Kentucky, 80-71, and Tennessee Tech, 90-86. At 15-12, the Eagles have clinched a winning record for the third consecutive season. The last time Morehead State posted winning records in three straight campaigns was 1981-84. Senior guard/forward Ricky Minard fell short of a triple-double at Tech with 24 points, nine boards and eight assists. He shot 58.3 percent from the field for the week, averaging 24 points, eight rebounds and 5.5 assists per game while also going 18-of-24 from the foul line for 75 percent. According to all available records, Minard is the first player in school and OVC history to surpass 2,300 points (2,321), 700 rebounds (710), 400 assists (404) and 200 steals (235) for his career. Freshman guard Josh Reed has seen more action recently following senior forward Chez Marks’ season-ending injury. Reed averaged 10.5 points per game last week, including a career-high 13 at Tech. He went 7-of-14 from the field in the two contests, including 5-of-10 from 3-point range. Five Eagles scored in double figures at Tech. Starting point guard Quinton Smith missed the second half of the TTU contest after becoming ill during the game. The Eagles swept the Gamecocks in regular-season play.

Jacksonville State posted wins over Samford, 71-51, and Tennessee State, 86-70, to claim the number six seed for the upcoming OVC Tournament. JSU finished in a three-way tie for fifth in the OVC standings, but came out in the middle of the tiebreaker. The victory against the Bulldogs marked the Gamecocks’ second consecutive 20-point win following an 80-59 decision versus Tennessee Tech the previous week. Sophomore guard Walker Russell recorded his fifth double-double of the season with 15 points and 10 assists against TSU. He shot 55 percent from the field while averaging 16.5 points, 7.0 assists and 3.5 rebounds for the week. The Gamecocks finished the 2003-04 season with a 12-2 record in Pete Mathews Coliseum, the most home wins for the program at the Division I level. JSU canned 13 three-pointers against the Tigers, the seventh time this season JSU has registered 10+ treys in a game. The Gamecocks have made 54 treys over the last five outings. The Gamecocks will be looking for their first win against the Eagles in 2003-04 after losing both regular-season meetings.

No. 5 Samford (12-15, 7-9) at No. 4 Eastern Kentucky (13-14, 8-8)
Eastern Kentucky lost its final two regular-season games to Morehead State, 80-71, and Austin Peay, 81-64, but still finished in fourth with an 8-8 OVC mark, its first .500 or better effort since going 9-7 for a fourth-place finish in 1993-94. Sophomore guard Matt Witt averaged 19 points and 4.5 assist per game for the week. Freshman guard Brandon Moore made his second career start in the APSU contest. He played 27 minutes, collecting three rebounds and an assist before fouling out. Skipper Travis Ford is the first EKU coach to lead the Colonels to back-to-back OVC Tournament appearances since Mike Calhoun did it in 1994-95 and 1995-96. The Colonels’ run of 16 straight games in which they equaled or surpassed an opponent’s assist total ended at APSU, where EKU dished out just seven assists to the Governors’ 14. EKU’s 13 overall wins are the most since a 13-14 record during the 1995-96 campaign. Seeded fourth for OVC tourney action, the Colonels will be hosting a first-round game for the first time since the event moved to its current format in 1997. EKU swept both in-season meetings with the Bulldogs, including a double-overtime thriller on Jan. 24.

Samford split its final two OVC regular-season contests, dropping a 71-51 decision to Jacksonville State before picking up an 86-70 triumph over Tennessee State. Senior forward Eddie Harper tossed in a career-high 27 points versus TSU on 9-of-12 shooting form the floor. He averaged 18 points each time out while converting 55 percent of his field attempts, including a 6-of-13 effort from three-point range. Freshman guard Jerry Smith contributed eight points, 6.5 rebounds and four assists per game. Samford shot 58 percent from the floor, including 52 percent from three-point range, and 81 percent at the foul stripe in the win over TSU. After finishing in a three-way tie for fifth place in the league standings, the Bulldogs won the tiebreaker for the number five seed.

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