The opening slate of games for Ohio Valley Conference play had some fun performances and some games a bit tighter than most might have expected. One thing is for sure, if nonconference play didn't demonstrate to everyone that the East division is better than the West, the first two days of conference play sure did.
Belmont 92 Southeast Missouri State 82
Eastern Illinois 84 Tennessee Tech 94
SIU Edwardsville 67 Jacksonville State 72
Morehead State 57 Murray State 62
Eastern Illinois 75 Jacksonville State 64
Tennessee State 72 Southeast Missouri State 66
Eastern Kentucky 79 Austin Peay 70
SIU Edwardsville 63 Tennessee Tech 86
Boyce 60 UT-Martin 122
So as noted before, the East sure looks leaps and bounds ahead of the West. Not that this matters a ton, but it does mark an interesting swing considering the sordid manner in which the East conducted itself last year outside of a good Belmont team and decent Morehead State and Eastern Kentucky squads.
Speaking of which, the Belmont Bruins offense has a lot of fun on Thursday, as it scored 92 points in a road win against the Redhawks while hitting 17 from beyond the arc. Coach Rick Byrd has to be sweating a bit that his team allowed 10 3-pointers, which was a season-high for 2-win SEMO. But no matter. Craig Bradshaw balled out, hitting 7 treys and scored 28 points, grabbed 7 boards and distributed 6 assists. Evan Bradds' chances went down as he shot the ball just 5 times, but he did his part with 14 boards.
Tennessee Tech and Tennessee State (forgive me for continuing to group these two together but I do have a point) escaped with closer-than-expected wins as both seem to be growing into the role of steady and solid East contenders. Though it is early. Tech eked out a close win over the hapless EIU Panthers thanks to strong performances from three 20 point scorers (Ryan Martin, Torrance Rowe, Aleksa Jugovic) but looked better in a stomping of SIUE particularly thanks to Martin's 26 points. State was challenged by SEMO, just as the Bruins were, but it was the play of Tahjere McCall, rebounding from a forgettable performance against Tennessee, that was important in the Tigers' win.
Murray State won its eighth straight OVC-opener with its win over Morehead State on Saturday. The Eagles slowed the pace and Corban Collins scored 17 but was forced to take on the load of a struggling offense and it was not enough to overcome the Racers. Murray State is certainly not as strong as past years, and will fight to have to keep its streak going of 28 straight years with a winning record. Sitting at 7-7, it could be a fight.
Eastern Illinois and Jacksonville State scratched out identical 1-1 marks with JSU winning the head-to-head matchup. Demetrius Reynolds and Malcolm Drumwright battled with the former netting a career-high 21 on 10-of-13 shooting. The junior guard has shown some noteworthy skill as of late and his role in an offense with an established Trae Anderson figures to get better. Drumwright continues to show he can light it up or fall short of what the Gamecocks need on any given night.
EKU and Austin Peay did battle in Clarksville in a matchup that answered a few questions. Yes, the Governors are a better looking team. No, they are not going to overtake the likes of an EKU team that can compete for a high conference tournament seed and another 20-win season. With both JaVontae Hawkins and Jarelle Reischel healthy, not even someone like Chris Horton (who will put up some gaudy numbers in the coming weeks, just you watch) could stop them.