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3 Things: Murray State, Belmont, and the dominance of the East Division in the Ohio Valley Conference

Belmont gave us a three-point shooting clinic on Thursday

NCAA Basketball: Belmont at Vanderbilt
Rick Byrd is directing an efficient Belmont team.
Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Most Ohio Valley Conference teams played their second conference games Thursday, and we learned some valuable lessons as the six West Division teams visited the six East Division squads.

Belmont is still Belmont

When people think of the Belmont Bruins, they think of meticulous execution and three-point shooters. But through 11 games, the Bruins were dead last in the Ohio Valley Conference in three-point shooting percentage.

Thursday, the Bruins blew away a solid UT Martin team with a barrage of threes.

Belmont made 14 of 23 first-half three-point attempts. Reserve Nick Smith scored a career high (21 points) during that first half, as he converted all seven of his shots from long distance.

Belmont (8-4, 2-0) held on to defeat the Skyhawks (11-7, 1-2), 83-67, as Smith set a Curb Center record with 10 treys and finished with 30 points.

The East is still the best division

With five wins in six tries Thursday, the East Division improved its record to 9-4 against its western counterparts this season. The East is traditionally better than the West, and that is significant in a league that only allows eight of its 12 teams to play in the postseason tournament.

Last season, East Division teams earned the league’s four best conference records. The OVC’s two worst league marks were accomplished by West Division squads.

Murray State Is Still Dangerous

Despite a slow start to the season, the Racers are the most dangerous West Division team. Thursday, two of the most reliable Racer performers, Brion Sanchious and Damarcus Croaker, didn’t score a point and MSU (8-8, 2-0) won at Jacksonville State (9-8, 2-1), 76-63.

Newcomers Terrell Miller (28 points) and Jonathan Stark (23 points) combined for 51 of the Racers’ 76 points. Murray State buried 13 of 18 three-point attempts, including Miller’s 6-8 performance, and Stark’s making five of six shots from deep.

Murray State’s pedigree is secure, with a 41-9 record in conference play dating back to 2013-14. The future seems bright as well, with Stark and Miller combining to earn five of the OVC’s eight Newcomer of the Week awards this season.