The opening salvo of the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament featured a thrilling pair of games, even if we weren’t able to watch the first one.
Both games went to overtime, proving once and for all that the OVC is out to destroy my circadian rhythm. However, we must truly recognize how blessed we were to see such a night, something something MARCH.
Yet from the opening tip, the OVC Digital Network’s live stream wasn’t working, meaning that my connection to the Tennessee State-Southeast Missouri and Murray State-Tennessee Tech games was tenuous at best.
The stream wasn’t fixed for quite a while, but the outage did provide a bit of levity as we were treated to the sight of an athletic conference tweeting at Comcast like a frustrated cable customer. No need to point fingers, but I wouldn’t argue with you if you said that Comcast ruined the OVC Tournament. Thankfully, the excitement of the games themselves more than made up for the interruption in broadcasting them.
Tennessee State 75, SEMO 78 (OT)
If you had told me at about the 12-minute mark of the first half that this game would turn into a one-sided affair in TSU’s favor, I would have probably believed you before checking the 16-8 SEMO lead and remembering how math works. After all, the Tigers were my pick for the team most likely to pull off an Austin Peay-style run in this year’s OVC Tournament.
However, we both would have still been wrong, even though it looked for a while like Tennessee State was going to run away with it.
After the Tigers got down early to the Redhawks, they managed to claw their way back (pun 100% intended) with a 26-12 run fueled by hot shooting from the perimeter and the lockdown defensive style that they’re famous for. They took a 34-28 lead into halftime, and the Tigers came out of the gate in the second half with a 10-2 run, giving them a comfortable lead relinquished only due to ice cold shooting.
In overtime, SEMO took off, jumping out to a decent lead before allowing TSU to climb back with some clutch baskets and free throws from Darreon Reddick. The game finished as excitingly as it was played, as a game-tying three from TSU’s Ken'Darrius Hamilton was cancelled out only seconds later by Tahj Eaddy’s game-winning three. It was a perfect way to start off one of the first games of March™.
For Tennessee State, one of the five teams to actually beat Middle Tennessee this season and one of only four OVC teams with a winning record, the loss marked a frustrating end to a disappointing set of conference games. What makes this loss worse is that the Tigers are no stranger to giving up sizable leads in the OVC Tournament, as they did nearly the same thing against Austin Peay last season.
SEMO’s Denzel Mahoney, the 2016-17 OVC Freshman of the Year, proved that he is going to be a force to be reckoned with in the future (if not in this tournament). Wednesday, he put up 34 points and was 14-15 from the free throw line.
SEMO will take on Jacksonville State, the tournament’s 4 seed, at 7:30 p.m. ET on Thursday night.
Murray State 85, Tennessee Tech 84 (2OT)
I was able to watch!
And thank God was I able to do so. This game was entertaining from late start to late finish, despite the low score from two teams who aren’t exactly known for their defensive prowess.
If you looked at the box score, the first half was surprisingly close given the shooting stats of both teams. The Golden Eagles, however, were plagued by turnovers, which Murray State converted into 17 total points.
All game, Murray State and Tennessee Tech were prone to prodigious stretches without a field goal. Fortunately for both squads, neither team was able to pull away in that time period.
Tennessee Tech’s scoring attack was spread out all night, even though Hakeem Rogers hit what felt like, I don’t know, seven threes in a row (don’t challenge me on that) in the second half. Murray State, however, saw the bulk of its offense centered around Jonathan Stark, who took 40 (!!) shots and scored 41 points for the Racers.
OK now that that’s out of the way, you should — nay, need to — take a look at the Kajon Mack dunk with about two seconds left that gave this game its first extra session. You’re going to want to sit down before watching this one.
As the first overtime came to a close, the ball naturally found itself in the hands of Stark, who missed at the buzzer. He may have scored Murray State’s last five points in overtime, but he couldn’t end the game just yet. They played on.
Double overtime began with the Racers galloping out to a five-point lead, mainly due to the Bryce Jones’ shooting at the foul line. A daring three from Aleksa Jugovic, some Murray State fouls, and a turnover, however, allowed Tennessee Tech to take a late lead.
Of course, this wouldn’t be a true March™ game without a clutch shot to end it, with the heroics this time coming from Stark, who found redemption for his miss at the end of the first overtime. On his 40th shot of the game, he stepped back, nailing a three through a double team to put Murray State up by one and seal the victory.
JONATHAN STARK WITH 41 POINTS! Racers lead 85-84 with 6 seconds to play. pic.twitter.com/BLVXwXD4qk— MSU Sports News (@MSUSportsNews) March 2, 2017
Murray State will play 3 seed Morehead State Thursday evening in Nashville.