Murray State’s KJ Williams (23) does a celebration dance for his teammates Jalen Johnson (25) and Tevin Brown (10) after the team’s win ina NCAA college basketball game for the championship of the Ohio Valley Conference men’s tournament Saturday, March 9, 2019, in Evansville, Ind. (AP Photo/Daniel R. Patmore)
- The SIU-Edwardsville Cougars (8-11, 6-7 OVC) host the Murray State Racers (11-9, 8-7 OVC) Monday, Feb. 15
- The Racers are hot, winning three straight; the Cougars are not, dropping three of four
- Read below for odds, analysis, and our best bet for this matchup
The SIU-Edwardsville Cougars (8-11, 6-7 OVC) losers in three of their last four games, host the Murray State Racers (11-9, 8-7 OVC) Monday, Feb. 15. Tip is set for 5pm ET at the Sam Vadalabene Center.
Mondays tilt against Murray State marks the first time SIU-E has played the Racers this season — and that probably suits the Cougars just fine. MSU has knocked off the smaller Southern Illinois program 13 straight times.
Matt McMahon has his team rolling of late, as the Racers have won six of their last eight. Meantime, Brian Barone is trying to coach the Cougars to the program’s first-ever .500 or better record. The group’s 8-11 mark ties the best start through 19 games in program history.
The more-established Racer program is a road favorite over the Cougars in this one.
Murray State vs SIU-Edwardsville Odds
|Murray State||-10 (-110)||N/A||Ov 138 (-110)|
|SIU-Edwardsville||+10 (-110)||N/A||Un 138 (-110)|
Odds taken Feb. 14 at FanDuel
While Belmont has been the undisputed class of the Ohio Valley Conference this season, sporting a 22-1 record overall, 16-1 league mark and No. 73 rating by KenPom, Murray State is rated second in the OVC at No. 139.
Two big reasons why has been the production by a pair of juniors, guard Tevin Brown and forward KJ Williams. The respective skills of the talented tandem were on display Saturday in an 84-55 blowout over UT-Martin.
Brown poured in a season-high 25 points on 6-of-9 shooting from the 3-point line. It was his fifth career game at MSU of six or more 3-pointers. He also added six rebounds and three assists. Meantime, Williams put up a performance The Worm would be proud of, with a Dennis Rodman-esque 16 rebounds. He also scored 15 points.
Saturday’s outing by the 6-foot-10 Williams was the third this season in which he’s grabbed at least 16 boards. The author of six double-doubles this season, Williams owns 17 in his career and is primed for another Monday against a smaller Cougar lineup.
If sharp-shooter Brown continues his hot hand from distance, MSU’s inside-out game will be difficult to defend for SIU-E.
Carlos in Danger?
He may only be Barone’s fifth-leading scorer this season (averaging 8.0 points per game) but Carlos Curtis is an indispensable weapon in the Cougars’ offense.
The sophomore guard is dishing out 3.0 assists per game — good for second on the roster — and has been one of the team’s best ball handlers. But after getting his fifth straight start and playing eight minutes against Jacksonville State Saturday, he left the game with an apparent foot injury and did not return.
This is a troubling development for a player who had nine assists in each of his previous two games and had been averaging 12.8 point per game his previous five outings.
Without Curtis for the remaining 32 minutes of an eventual 80-60 defeat to the Gamecocks, the Cougars totaled only nine assists for the entire game and 15 turnovers. That is not a recipe for success against any team — and certainly not against the second-best team, from an efficiency rating, in the conference.
Sidney Wilson, Mike Adewunmi, Shamar Wright and Courtney Carter all scored in double-figures against JSU. But the absence of Curtis was huge. If the Milwaukee product is out Monday, it will be that much more challenging for SIU-E to win.
The Cougars are also playing an impacted schedule after a 34-day break between games that went from Dec. 18 to Jan. 21. Since that 67-65 victory over Tennessee State over three weeks ago, SIU-E has played in 12 games — sporting a 5-7 mark over the stretch.
But playing a game every other day on average may be catching up with the Cougars. After Monday’s home game against the Racers, SIUE heads back out on the road to face Austin Peay and MSU at the end of the week.
By comparison, the Racers had no such extended COVID layoff around the holidays and has played nine games since Jan. 21, going 6-3 in that span.
When you consider the play of Brown and Williams, the uncertain status of Curtis and the Cougars’ brutal schedule, I love Murray State in this spot.
The pick: Murray State -10 (-110)
Blair Johnson is a veteran journalist and seasoned sports content creator. He has been writing and producing content as long as he can remember, with such familiar names as CNN, NFL Media and Yahoo. Blair currently lives and works in the greater Los Angeles area.