Sports, Thrill of Victory

OVC Semifinals Preview: Belmont trying to stop Austin Peay’s surprise run

02 MAR 2016: Austin Peay players celebrate after coming back from 19 down to defeat Tennessee State 74-73 in the quarterfinals of the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament at the Municipal Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Matthew Maxey/Icon Sportswire)

After a wild and wacky day one at the 2016 OVC basketball tournament, we should have known that there were more unexpected twists to come on day two.

And sure enough, there were.

Chris Horton and Austin Peay will try to keep their run going against top-seeded Belmont on Friday. PHOTO BY MATTHEW MAXEY

Chris Horton and Austin Peay will try to keep their run going against top-seeded Belmont on Friday. PHOTO BY MATTHEW MAXEY

A day after upsetting fifth-seeded Tennessee Tech, No. 8 Austin Peay continued its Cinderella run through the OVC men’s bracket with a 74-72 comeback win over No. 4 Tennessee State.

It appeared as though the Governors would see their season come to an end after the Tigers took a 19-point lead in the second half, with Austin Peay still trailing by 18 with 8:50 left in the game.

But just like it did on day one, Dave Loos’ team simply refused to lose.

Austin Peay battled its way back and somehow managed to push past a Tennessee State team that looked well on its way towards a showdown with top-seeded Belmont in Friday’s first semifinal game.

One of the reasons why the Govs were able to charge back into the game was a nice second half from Chris Horton. The senior center had a monster performance in his team’s victory over Tennessee Tech on Wednesday, scoring 37 points and adding 21 rebounds.

However, Horton got off to a slow start against TSU and struggled to find a rhythm early. But he more than made up for it with a solid second half and finished with 15 points and 12 boards on the day.

What will the semifinal round bring us? Let’s discuss.

Evan Bradds and Belmont are trying to march into the OVC tournament final with a win over Austin Peay. PHOTO BY MATTHEW MAXEY

Evan Bradds and Belmont are trying to march into the OVC tournament final with a win over Austin Peay. PHOTO BY MATTHEW MAXEY

Belmont trying to slow down the Governors

There’s no doubt that Horton and company have been great in their two upset wins thus far. Now they’ll have to be even better to take down OVC regular season champion Belmont.

The Bruins will square off against an unlikely opponent in Austin Peay, which may in fact be the rarest matchup that the OVC tournament has ever seen. That’s because a No. 8 seed has never made it to the semifinal round until now.

Belmont won the only regular season meeting between the two teams back in mid-January, as the Bruins captured a 76-58 home victory.

Rick Byrd’s squad is looking to move into the OVC tournament final and attempt to grab its fifth NCAA tournament bid in the past six seasons.

But given the way Austin Peay has been playing this week, that will be easier said than done.

Morehead State prepares for semifinal clash with UT Martin

While one side of the men’s bracket saw chaos, the other played out like we expected it.

Sixth-seeded Murray State gave Morehead State all it could handle in the second quarterfinal game on Thursday, but it was the Eagles that were able to pull away for 75-66 win.

Morehead State junior guard Xavier Moon hit several key shots down the stretch to give his team the boost it needed, and he finished with 16 points on the night.

Anthony Elechi led the Eagles with 17 points, while Lyonell Gaines added 15 points and 10 rebounds.

With the loss, Murray State fails to reach the OVC semifinal round for the first time since 2007.

But now Morehead State moves into the semifinal to play a UT Martin team that has been one of the hottest in the OVC in recent weeks. The Skyhawks enter having won 8 of their last 9 games, with the lone loss during that stretch coming in the season finale against Murray State.

UT Martin fell at Morehead State in the two teams’ only meeting this season, with the Eagles rallying to win 64-58 in early January.

Morehead State took down Murray State on Thursday, and will now try and move into the finals with a win over UT Martin. PHOTO BY MATTHEW MAXEY

Morehead State took down Murray State on Thursday, and will now try and move into the finals with a win over UT Martin. PHOTO BY MATTHEW MAXEY

Updated OVC tournament men’s bracket

Semifinals (Friday, March 4)

No. 1 Belmont vs. No. 8 Austin Peay – 6:30 PM CT on ESPNU

No. 2 UT Martin vs. No. 3 Morehead State – 8:30 PM CT on ESPNU

Finals (Saturday, March 5)

Semifinal 1 winner vs. Semifinal 2 winner – 5 PM CT on ESPN2

Updated OVC tournament women’s bracket

Semifinals (Friday, March 4)

No. 8 Murray State vs. No. 4 Eastern Kentucky – 12 PM CT on OVC Digital Network/ESPN3

No. 2 Belmont vs. No. 3 SIUE – 2 PM CT on OVC Digital Network/ESPN3

Finals (Saturday, March 5)

Semifinal 1 winner vs. Semifinal 2 winner – 12 PM CT on OVC Digital Network/ESPN3

Sports and Entertainment Nashville will be live at the OVC tournament all this week. Follow @SENashville and @theblakelovell on Twitter for continuous updates on all the action!

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