OVC Final Four Rematch(es)
Some thoughts from home about tonight’s Murray State-Jacksonville State before heading off to Evansville…
…Familiar Four: The OVC could have saved some expenses by just plugging in Belmont, Murray, Austin Peay and Jacksonville State into Friday’s semifinals and dispensing with Wednesday and Thursday games. The best four teams all season will meet tonight in the semifinals for the second-straight year. A year ago, Murray beat Jacksonville State and Belmont beat Peay to set up the Racers vs. Bruins title game.
…Strap up: If the Racers (or any team) want to hang with Jacksonville State, they better have their big-boy pants on because the Gamecocks are THE most physical team in the OVC. In the regular-season meeting in Jacksonville State on Jan. 31, neither team played well in the first 10 minutes, but late in the first half the Gamecocks took the intensity up a notch and the Racers couldn’t match it. The result: an 88-68 Jax State win. Tonight, the Racers need to throw the first punch and keep swinging…figuratively speaking, of course.
…Stay Down: In the Jan. 31 loss the Racers lacked intensity and seemed to have lost a little spark as they were going through a mini-slump. This especially showed up on defense. But it wasn’t all about energy, however, as the Racers also got away from the fundamentals. Most notably, the Racers seemed to bite on every shot fake and allowed JSU players to put the ball on the floor and drive to the basket or get a better shot. Tonight, stay down and make the 11th-best 3-point shooting team (32.4%) bomb from outside.
…Slow Burn: Jacksonville State forward Jason Burnell is one of the OVC’s most complete players. The 6-foot-7 senior is fifth in scoring (19.3 ppg in OVC play), second in rebounding (10.6) and a very good defensive player. He has a motor that doesn’t stop and he will give the Racers all they want tonight.
…More BS: Brion Sanchious played a phenomenal defensive game in the season finale against Austin Peay, especially the way he made Terry Taylor work for points. Well, the Racers need some more of that tonight as they try to corral Burnell. Burnell is very similar to Taylor in stature and style, so Sanchious should be comfortable.