Jacksonville State (15-17) vs. Morehead State (17-14)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, March 1st, 9 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Site: Municipal Auditorium (8,000) -- Nashville, Tennessee. Television: OVCSports.TV. Home Record: JSU 9-4, MSU 9-4. Away Record: JSU 3-10, MSU 6-9. Neutral Record: JSU 3-3, MSU 2-1. Conference Record: JSU 8-8, MSU 10-6. Series Record: Morehead State leads, 15-7.
GAME NOTES: The Morehead State Eagles will begin their attempt of repeating as Ohio Valley Conference Tournament champions tonight as they square off with the seventh-seed Jacksonville State Gamecocks in quarterfinal action at the Municipal Auditorium in Nashville.
The third-seeded Eagles will be tested in their first action of the tourney tonight, as they will battle the last OVC team to beat them. Morehead State holds a 15-7 lead in the all-time series with Jacksonville State, but the Gamecocks have the momentum after their 69-55 triumph over the Eagles on Feb. 8th. JSU had one of its best shooting performances of the season in its most recent bout with the Eagles, as it hit 55.3 percent of its field goals and also added 23 free throws.
JSU's coach James Green had a handful of wild cards to use as none of his players had conference tournament experience going into their first round clash with the sixth-seed Austin Peay. The Gamecocks responded by pulling off a slight upset with their 75-70 comeback victory over the Governors. Austin Peay was ahead of JSU, 67-61, with 4:59 left to play on Wednesday night. Brian Williams put the Gamecocks in front, 72-70, with 33 seconds left as he drilled a clutch three-pointer. After forcing the Governors into a turnover, Ronnie Boggs made it a three-point lead with 18 seconds left. Austin Peay's TyShwan Edmondson missed a game-tying attempt from beyond the arc with 12 seconds left and Williams put it out of a reach with a layup to push his team to just its second OVC Tournament win in program history.
The Gamecocks have won nine of their last 12 games and will be carrying a boatload of momentum into tonight. Williams was key in the first round for JSU as he scored a team-high 18 points. Darion Rackley contributed 16 points off the bench and Tarvin Gaines got into the mix as well, as he added 12 points. Ronnie Boggs was the x-factor in the first round for the Gamecocks. The junior guard did everything he could to help his team as he had 11 points, eight rebounds, and six assists. The collective effort from Wednesday will be even more necessary and vital tonight.
MSU has won eight of its last 11 games including blowout victories over Eastern Illinois and SIU Edwardsville in its final two games of the season. The Eagles have made it to the championship game in each of the past three conference tourneys, and they won the league tournament in 2009 and 2011 en route to NCAA Tournament births. Coach Donnie Tyndall does not have anywhere near as much talent to work with as he did last year, but the experienced coach still managed to lead the Eagles to a 17-14 overall finish. With no superstars on the offensive end, MSU relies on its pestering defense. The Eagles are forcing opponents into a league-high 16 turnovers per game, while leading the OVC in scoring defense (61.3 ppg).
Drew Kelly's 10.3 points is the best scoring average on the active roster for the Eagles. Ty Proffitt is netting 10.0 ppg and Marsell Holden is adding 8.5 ppg. Kelly picked up some momentum down the stretch as he scored in double- figures four straight games to close the season, which includes a 21-point and six-rebound outing versus SIU Edwardsville. Although none of the Eagles are considered superstars, there are many quality role players on the team. Nine different players got on the scoreboard in their win over SIUE last Saturday. The depth has led to an always active and lively defense.
With Tyndall at the helm, MSU has just as good a chance to upset Murray State and sneak into the Big Dance as anyone else in the conference. MSU's depth will play an even more vital role in this one as the Gamecocks are playing on back to back nights. The Eagles should be able to slow down Williams better this time around, with JSU's players in the midst of a marathon.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Morehead State 66, Jacksonville State 62
03/01 10:33:19 ET