OVC play heating up in men’s basketball

Maher Kawash, Basketball Reporter

It is safe to say the Eastern men’s basketball team has not lived up to expectations to start this season, but the rest of the Ohio Valley Conference has struggled as well.

In all fairness, the Panthers may have had one of the toughest non-conference slates after going through a brutal stretch against opponents such as Marquette, Nebraska, and San Diego state.

What made it even harder to swallow for Eastern is how close the margin of loss was in most of their non-conference games.

Five of the Panthers’ nine losses this season have come by four points or less.

On the bright side, what matters most is conference play, which is just getting started.

The Panthers had a daunting task of starting OVC play against the two 4-0  teams atop the standings right now in Murray State and Austin Peay.

While Eastern has bounced back with back-to-back road wins against Morehead State and Eastern Kentucky, other teams in the OVC are starting to heat up.

While Murray State and Austin Peay get off to a hot start, it is still important to keep an eye on reigning OVC champions Jacksonville State, who are 12-5 and 3-1 in the conference.

Unlike Eastern, Murray State has found its touch on offense, leading the league with 83 points per game.

Jonathan Stark has been a vital part of that as he is at the top of the OVC with an average of 19 points per game.

The Gamecocks have found their success on the other end with gritty defense, leading the OVC in scoring defense as they allow just 64 points per game.

What may be even more impressive is the Gamecocks most recent win against conference-favorite Belmont in a 64-60 thriller.

That speaks volumes because Belmont is a force to be reckoned with this season, already competing with some solid power five conference opponents.

Belmont has already topped Vanderbilt and went to the wire with Washington in an 86-82 loss to start the season.

In terms of conference play, the Bruins handled another 3-1 team in Tennessee Tech pretty well too as they ran away with an 80-67 win.

Those teams are managing to battle atop the conference, and the rest of the OVC has been average to say the least.

Much like Eastern has struggled to find consistency, there are six teams under them in the standings with .500 or below records.

Eastern Kentucky and Morehead State are the only two teams without a conference victory this season, coming in at 0-4 each, while combining for 10 wins total.

Southern Illinois- Edwardsville has an identical record as the Panthers in terms of conference play and overall.

It is still early in what will be a long season of OVC basketball, but it will be fun to watch Murray State and Jacksonville State face off Jan. 11, while Austin Peay and Tennessee Tech also clash that night.

Maher Kawash can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]