The Ohio Valley's top two squads both went on the road tonight and turned in uncharacteristically bad performances, though both remain on pace to win their divisions.
We knew coming into tonight that the match-up between Belmont and Tennessee State would be a clash of styles. Belmont is a team that does what they do best - one of the top three-point shooting teams in the country. Tennessee State is a team that does what they do best - Kellen Thornton and Robert Covington lead the Tigers with their inside game, averaging a combined 31 points and 16 rebounds per game.
So what happened tonight? Exactly what you might expect in a conference road game. The home squad did exactly what they wanted, racking up 25 points and 7 rebounds from Covington, and another 18 and 10 from Thornton on the route to shooting 53% from the field as a team.
Belmont, on the other hand, may have had every starter finish in double digits in scoring, but also got only six points from their bench and couldn't hit a three to save their lives. As a matter of fact, their 5-for-26 shooting from deep (19%) represented their worst deep shooting percentage in over three years.
As if that wasn't bad enough, Eastern Kentucky won at home against Tennessee Tech, which closed the gap just enough that the Colonels could now still win the division if they can win out - not an impossibility. They have two more home games (and haven't lost to anyone but Belmont at home), and their BracketBusters game at Valparaiso just became that much bigger.
Not to be outdone, Murray State went on the road to face *shudder* second place SIU-Edwardsville in what was destined to be an easy game for them. The Cougars may be in second place behind the Racers in the division, but they entered tonight 8-13 overall and 4-7 in the OVC. So what happened? The Racers couldn't make shots and wound up losing, of course.
The Racers made only three of 16 three point attempts, and Isaiah Canaan in particular shot a miserable 7-for-22 from the field, gradually making his way to 20 points (to tie Stacy Wilson for the team lead) but wasting a lot of leather doing it.
The Racers are still three games clear of SIU-E after this outing, so they are still just fine in terms of the division lead and tournament seeding, but the offense has been faltering too often lately and they need to get back on track before their road trip ends with a visit from a strong South Dakota State team.