Notebook: Men’s basketball team slipping in conference race

Maher Kawash, Basketball Reporter

The Eastern men’s basketball team has some odds against it right now as others are proving their worth around the Ohio Valley Conference.

After a shaky 1-3 homestand the Panthers fell to 3-5 in the OVC, ranking them at eighth in the standings.

Things may not get much easier ahead though, with matchups looming against Belmont and Jacksonville State.

And for those two teams it is nice to be on top.

Belmont continues to show why it was a preseason favorite to win the conference as the Bruins have notched four straight wins, the latest coming in convincing fashion with the 83-59 drubbing over Austin Peay.

It is not impossible to score on the Bruins as they are middle of the pack when it comes to defense, but teams are not likely to contain the offense either.

Belmont ranks third in the OVC with an average of 76 points per game, and Dylan Windler is the catalyst of that ranking third in the conference with 17 points per game.

They are in pretty good shape to improve that 7-1 OVC record.

When looking at the schedule ahead for them, the next five games come against the five teams sitting at the bottom of the standings eighth through twelfth.

Right under them and not far behind is Murray State and Jacksonville State tied with 6-2 records.

Murray State also has a lighter schedule ahead facing last place Morehead State Thursday night followed by 2-6 Eastern Kentucky Saturday.

The Racers success has really come from both sides of the ball, scoring at will and locking down teams defensively.

They rank first in scoring among the OVC with about 80 points per game all while ranking second in scoring defense by holding teams to just 66 points per game.

The Gamecocks are on a roll of their own, winning four of their last five games.

That has come at the help of their defense, ranking first in the conference in that category by shutting teams down to just 65 points per game.

They face a struggling Tennessee-Martin team next but will see a tougher Southeast Missouri squad Saturday.

Tennessee Tech and Austin Peay are lingering around as contenders at 5-3 in the conference.

The Golden Eagles are coming off a surprising loss to Morehead State, but have a chance to bounce back with games against Tennessee-Martin and Southern Illinois-Edwardsville ahead.

Austin Peay has an easier road ahead against Eastern Kentucky and Morehead State, but will have to shape out its inconsistent play if it is going to keep up with the crème of the crop in this conference.

The OVC is starting to shape itself out and the contenders have separated themselves from the pretenders.

If Eastern is going to have a shot at avoiding the pretenders, consistency will have to come very soon.

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