Sports, Thrill of Victory

Action heats up for local teams on second day at OVC Tournament

The Belmont bench celebrates as the Bruins dominate their quarterfinal game at the OVC Tournament. PHOTO BY MATTHEW MAXEY

The Belmont bench celebrates as the Bruins dominate their quarterfinal game at the OVC Tournament. PHOTO BY MATTHEW MAXEY

It was a really good day for the teams from Nashville at the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament. Belmont used 16 three-pointers to cruise to a 33 point win over Eastern Illinois, while on the women’s side both Belmont and Tennessee State advanced to the semi-finals. While the treacherous weather prevented many fans from making it to Municipal Auditorium, those that did make it out were certainly not short-changed.

What we learned tonight:

A little time off since Belmont’s regular season finale at Tennessee State did not affect the Bruins hot shooting. The Bruins picked up right where they left off, starting the game with a 15-0 run and were on their way to one of the best shooting nights of the season. Rick Byrd coached teams have always had a second gear come tournament time, and tonight was no different. More impressive than the hot shooting, was Belmont’s dominance of the boards. Fighting off EIU’s Chris Olivier, one of the best big men in the OVC, the Bruins out rebounded the Panthers 38-23 and simply took away the inside game all together.

In stark contrast to Belmont’s performance, No. 4 seed UT Martin who has been one the biggest surprises in the league this year, was not able to find its shooting touch early on. Despite coming off a tight game less than 24 hours prior, Morehead State looked to be the team that was fresh and sharper. The lack of tournament experience for UT Martin showed, but with the talented youth on the Skyhawks roster and a coach like Heath Schoyer who has turned the program around in a hurry UT Martin should be back in the OVC Tournament on a regular basis and contending sooner than later.

Player of the Night:

Belmont's Craig Bradshaw led all scores with 23 points in the Bruins quarterfinal win. PHOTO BY MATTHEW MAXEY

Belmont’s Craig Bradshaw led all scores with 23 points in the Bruins quarterfinal win. PHOTO BY MATTHEW MAXEY

Belmont’s Craig Bradshaw seemed like he couldn’t miss tonight. Leading all scorers with 23 points, the junior from Ridgetop, Tenn., hit five three-pointers while also dishing out six assists, grabbing five rebounds and taking four steals. If he can keep up that level of play, he could easily be adding OVC Tournament MVP to his already growing trophy case.

What to watch for in the next round:

Belmont will face No. 2 Eastern Kentucky in Friday’s first semifinal game, a rematch of last year’s championship match up. The Colonels have an even stronger inside presence than EIU, so if the Bruins want to advance to the OVC Finals they will need to continue the hot shooting from outside. Forcing the EKU defense to respect the outside shot will loosen the defense on the Belmont big men, and create space on the floor where the Bruins are most dangerous.

Morehead State now prepares to play its third game in 48 hours, and in doing so will face the top-seeded Murray State Racers who are ranked No. 24 in the nation. Morehead State will have to avoid fatigue while at the same time continue shooting the ball well from outside, if they want to play the role of spoiler in Murray State’s dream season. The Racers will be able to match them pound for pound inside.

The six day layoff since the regular season finale can really hamper the flow of a team when it gets into a groove. If Murray State wants to avoid the upset, they’ll have to make sure their game is sharp from the opening tip. If they find themselves struggling early, Morehead State has the quick scoring ability to put them into a hole quickly.

Women’s Tournament

What we learned tonight:

The Belmont women's team advanced to the semi-finals to face No. 1 UT Martin Friday. PHOTO COURTESY BELMONT ATHLETICS

The Belmont women’s team advanced to the semi-finals to face No. 1 UT Martin Friday. PHOTO COURTESY BELMONT ATHLETICS

Good to be home: It was a good night for the teams that call Nashville home, as both Belmont and Tennessee State advanced in their first round matchups. Belmont used its hot shooting to overcome 17 turnovers, while Frankie Joubran led the way with a near double-double (18 points, 9 rebounds).  Belmont’s success also came by not putting giving away free points, as they put Jacksonville State on the free throw line only once the entire game. For their winning efforts, the Bruins get another date with No. 1 UT Martin and will have to cut down on the turnovers to dethrone the champs.

Player of the Night:

Chelsea Hudson of Tennessee State turned in the performance of the day with her 20 point, 10 rebound double-double.  Hudson was one of two 20 point scorers in the Lady Tigers 15 point win over Morehead State.

What to watch for in the next round:

Belmont must reign in the turnovers if they hope to knock off UT Martin, whose stifling defense is the spark for their very quick tempo offense. Tennessee State will have its hands full as well, looking to stop the very physical play of No. 2 seed SIU Edwardsville. Both games will feature very different styles, but will share the same goal of reaching the OVC Tournament championship game with a berth into the NCAA Tournament on the line.