The Christmas holiday limited the number of mid-major games this past week. Most of the action came from last Sunday through Wednesday. However, even with a small number of games, there was plenty of newsworthy moments. This is especially true for a pair of mid-major programs looking to make statements after years of being looked over in their respective leagues. The following teams and players had their gifts come a little early this holiday season.
2020-21 Week Five Mid-Major Takeaways
The Bryant Bulldogs have been a Division I mid-major program for 13 seasons, but are still searching for their first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance. However, things are looking up after the program knocked off the Massachusetts Minutemen 93-88 last Monday. The Bulldogs’ win marks their second-straight season defeating an Atlantic 10 member. Bryant defeated Fordham 69-61 last season. Their 7-2 start to the season is the best ever as a Division I team.
Bryant led by as much as 17 points early in the second half. However, UMass made their own push to get back into the game before Michael Green took over. He kept the game in the Bulldogs’ favor for good with a late layup and subsequent steal, leading to two made free-throws. Green had a career-high 33 points, while Rutgers transfer Peter Kiss added 21 points. The offense has been the key for Bryant’s surge, having scored at least 90 points in five games and at least 80 points in eight games this season. The Bulldogs have announced themselves as the new favorites in the Northeast Conference heading into the bulk of league play.
As you can see, this was a week for the dogs. Southern Illinois’ bite was bigger than Butler’s last Monday, as the Salukis downed the Bulldogs 76-73. Southern Illinois snapped the longest home non-conference winning streak with the win, as Butler had won 59 straight prior to this game. The Salukis, at 6-0, are off to their best start since the 2003-04 season and were undefeated at Christmas for the first time since 1993-94. Butler came out strong early, but the Salukis responded by holding the Bulldogs scoreless for almost eight minutes while going on a 26-2 run late in the first half.
The Bulldogs made a push in the second half, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the Salukis’ big early run. Marcus Domask, the reigning Missouri Valley Newcomer of the Year, showed why he is so special. Domask led all SIU scorers with 26 points, while Trent Brown added 21 points of his own. Southern Illinois has a chance to go 7-0 for the first time since the 1940s if they win their conference opener later today. Head coach Bryan Mullins was thrilled with the outcome.
“I told them how proud of them I was,” Mullins said. “To go through this entire non-conference and to finish it up here at Butler with fans in the building, and to play the way they did. That speaks a lot to the character of the group.”
Governors Revenge Game
Austin Peay was humbled, to put it lightly, in their first game against Murray State this season. The Governors lost by 30 earlier this month to the Racers. It was a surprising result for a team that was picked as the OVC favorite this season. However, Austin Peay got their revenge with a 74-70 win over the Racers this past Monday. The Governors got it done after trailing by double-digits early on. A big part of the win was Austin Peay’s domination on the offensive glass. The Govs had 15 offensive rebounds that led to 11 second-chance points.
Once again, Austin Peay was led by their legend Terry Taylor, who scored 22 of his 30 points in the second half. 10 of the Governors’ final 15 points in the game came at the hands of Taylor as well. Austin Peay has had a shaky start to the season, including a shocking loss to Florida A&M as well as the aforementioned blowout against Murray State. However, the program still has a winning record through eight games for the first time in 12 seasons. This squad may be finding its groove at the right time as Ohio Valley Conference play kicks into full gear.
Pride Comes Before the Fall (Of Richmond)
It should come as no surprise that the Hofstra Pride are able to get big wins. After all, this is a program that marched into UCLA and took down the Bruins last season. They also earned their first NCAA Tournament berth in 20 seasons before COVID-19 canceled it. Fast forward to last Tuesday and, once again, Hofstra gets it done. The Pride took down a fellow stalwart mid-major in the Richmond Spiders who were ranked 23rd in the Coaches’ Poll, giving Hofstra their second win over a ranked team in program history.
Hofstra went down nine halfway through the second half but wasn’t fazed. The Pride went on an 11-1 run to get back into the game before finally taking the lead for good at the last media timeout of the game. Hofstra had a monster second-half offensively, shooting 70 percent from the field and 7-of-10 from deep. Jalen Ray was the catalyst for the offense, scoring 23 points. However, he had three other teammates score in double-figures as well. The CAA appeared to be wide open this season, but that notion seems foolish with how well Hofstra has looked early on this season.
Mid-Major Top Performers
D’Moi Hodge of Cleveland State won the week from an individual performance standpoint. He went off for 46 points in the back half of the Vikings’ league-opening series against Purdue-Fort Wayne. This was the most points scored by a junior in program history. He made 10 threes, setting a new, single-game program record. Hodge was especially lethal in the first half, scoring 31 points and making eight deep balls. Both of those were also program records for one half of basketball. His performance helped the Vikings start 2-0 in league play for the first time in six seasons.
Teyvion Kirk of Illinois-Chicago recorded the third triple-double in program history in a win over Oakland last Sunday. Kirk scored a career-high 22 points while also grabbing 11 boards and dishing out 11 assists. This is the first triple-double for the Flames since 2018, and all three have come in the last five seasons. Kirk’s 11 assists were the second-straight game with such a total for him.
Isiaih Mosley of Missouri State dropped a career-high 26 points in a win over Little Rock last Monday. He also had eight rebounds, which was a game-high, and six assists, which was a team-high. He was joined by fellow sophomore Ja’Monta Black, who also scored 26 points in the victory.
Loudon Love was dominant for Wright State as they took down Detroit last Sunday. Love had a game-high 26 points and 13 rebounds in the game on an efficient 10-of-14 shooting. Love also added six assists and three blocks, having a hand in every aspect of the game. He is picking up where he left off as the Horizon League’s Player of the Year.