Notebook: OVC tournament field set with Belmont owning top seed

Oscar Rzodkiewicz, Basketball Reporter

The OVC field has already been whittled down to eight as the conference tournament gets underway Wednesday in Evansville, Indiana, as each team, including Eastern, must have a win-or-go-home mentality.

The first matchup of the day comes between fifth-seeded Morehead State and eighth-seeded Southern Illinois Edwardsville at 6:30 p.m.

Morehead State (12-19, 8-10 OVC) managed to close out the year with two wins in three games to slide up to the fifth slot, but unfortunately for the Eagles, both of the teams they beat in that stretch will not be participating in the tournament this week.

Morehead State instead hits the hardwood with Southern Illinois Edwardsville (10-20, 6-12 OVC), and recent history is on the Cougars’ side as the Eagles came up short in their regular season matchup with the Cougars 83-76.

Morehead State has some offensive firepower on its side, though, with junior Jordan Walker securing an All-OVC First Team selection after averaging the seventh-most points per game (15.6) in the conference.

Walker also shoots at a 39.2 percent clip from beyond the arc, making him the 12th-ranked scorer in that category.

On the other side of the court, the Cougars also boast some talented shooters between the likes of senior David McFarland, senior Brandon Jackson and junior Tyresse Williford, all of whom average over 13 points per game.

The Cougars have crawled through the back half of their regular season, though, as they have managed just two wins in their last eight contests.

The winner of this one goes on to face fourth-seeded Austin Peay Thursday at 6:30 p.m.

On the opposite side of the first round bracket, it is Eastern (14-17, 7-11 OVC) squaring off with Tennessee-Martin (11-18, 6-12 OVC) at 8:30 p.m.

It has been bad news for the Panthers lately, dropping their last five games and eight of the last nine heading into the tournament.

On the flip side, Eastern has managed to hold off the Skyhawks twice this season, the first in a 92-87 overtime shootout and again during regulation in late January to the tune of 66-64.

The Panthers will need some help from All-OVC First Team junior Josiah Wallace, as Wallace’s 15.2 points per game slot him eighth overall in the conference.

Tennessee-Martin junior Quintin Dove will be on the opposite side of the attack, averaging a shade under 13 points per game, but also boasting the OVC’s fourth-best shooting mark at 59 percent from the floor.

The winner laces up the sneakers again Thursday against third-seeded Jacksonville State at 8:30 p.m.

Oscar Rzodkiewicz can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]