Opening to Mixed Reviews
(St. Louis, MO) – Opportunities seized and opportunities missed. It was an opening weekend in the Missouri Valley and Ohio Valley Conferences that showed both the promise and the need for improvement for the two leagues.
There were great highs (Indiana State’s win over Indiana and Eastern Kentucky’s victory over Rice) and some significant lows (narrow losses to very solid programs by Belmont, Illinois State, Eastern Illinois and UT Martin). The Valley went 9-2, while the OVC struggled to a record of 5-9.
Kudos to the Ohio Valley Conference with Monday’s upcoming games, the OVC will have played 14 of their first 22 games against top-10 conference opposition.
Ohio Valley Conference
Nick Mayo was the star of the OVC’s biggest weekend win. The 6’9 junior led Eastern Kentucky to a 73-72 road win at Rice (Conference USA) with 25 points and twelve rebounds. The Preseason All-OVC forward has been named this season’s first ‘Player of the Week‘.
UT Martin’s opening weekend schedule was as difficult as any in the league. The Skyhawks went on the road to face Conference USA’s Marshall and the Big 10’s Illinois. Two narrow losses later, Anthony Stewart’s team proved they will be a legitimate force in the OVC. UTM’s leading scorer for the weekend was grad transfer Dominique Williams. The Radford graduate scored 25 points against Marshall, including a game-tying, buzzer beating triple to send the game into overtime. The 6’6 forward added 15 points in the narrow loss to the Illini. Williams is the OVC’s ‘Newcomer of the Week‘.
The OVC gave out ‘Co-Freshmen of the Week‘ awards. Mayo’s teammate at EKU Dedric Boyd and Belmont forward Nick Hopkins shared the award. During the Colonels’ big win Boyd scored 20 points and grabbed six rebounds in his collegiate debut. Meanwhile, Hopkins scored 22 points in the Belmont’s near win at the PAC-12’s Washington. The Bruins had a 10-point second half lead, but lost to the Huskies 86-82.
Missouri Valley Conference
Who else would it be? Indiana’s stunning win at Indiana’s Assembly Hall was propelled by Brenton Scott’s 24 point performance and the 6’1 senior is the Valley’s ‘Player of the Week‘. Part of his scoring performance were six 3-pointers. His teammates made eleven more shots from long distance tying an Assembly Hall road team record. Indiana State won the game 90-69.
Southern Illinois is a walking wounded group right now. Marcus Bartley is out. Thik Bol is out and Armon Fletcher is playing hurt. So junior college transfer Kavion Pippen threw the Salukis on his back and scored 15 points and grabbed ten rebounds in SIU’s 81-66 win over Winthrop. The Three Rivers Community College transfer also blocked three shots and came up with two steals. For his performance the 6’10 junior is the MVC’s ‘Newcomer of the Week‘.