There is always excitement when conference play arrives in mid-major leagues. Regardless of what happened in November and December, the real push for an NCAA Tournament berth starts in league play. This is where surprise teams start to make themselves known. This is also where losing games that teams shouldn’t be the difference in seeding for conference tournaments. We had a little bit of both over the past week of mid-major basketball.
It’s no secret that basketball success has been hard to come by in the Bronx at Fordham. The Rams have struggled to compete in the Atlantic 10 for some time now. However, all that was pushed aside last Tuesday as Fordham picked up a big upset win over league rival Dayton 55-54. This is the Rams’ first win over the Flyers in 15 years, having lost 16 straight games. The 54 points scored by Dayton in the game is the lowest total ever by the Flyers in their match-ups against Fordham.
Chris Austin hit the game-winning three-point shot with 18 seconds left, and the Rams’ defense held on Dayton’s final possession. Austin scored 2o points for the game and shot 5-for-9 from deep. Dayton was only able to shoot 4-for-23 from three on the day. Fordham had to wait until the end of December to play their first game due to COVID-19 issues. However, a win like this makes the wait worthwhile. Meanwhile, any at-large chances Dayton had largely gone out the window with this loss.
One of the more interesting end-of-game situations took place in the Sun Belt Conference on Friday night. Louisiana and Little Rock were squaring off in a tightly-contested game that saw 17 ties and 13 lead changes. It all came down to the last possession. Louisiana was up 66-64 as Little Rock brought the ball down the court for their final possession.
Markquis Nowell was getting ready to set up the offense with five seconds remaining as the lights went out in the arena. However, the officials did not blow the play dead, and the Trojans had to figure out how to get up a shot in the darkness for three seconds. Ruot Monyyong got up a desperation three as the lights came on with two seconds left, but it fell short at the buzzer. The Sun Belt released an official statement later on admitting that the officials had gotten it wrong on the court. However, the outcome won’t change, with Louisiana picking up a narrow win over the preseason league favorites.
What in the hell? pic.twitter.com/rx2yWSlAaC
— Bobby Reagan (@BarstoolReags) January 9, 2021
The Eastern Kentucky Colonels are off to their best start since the 1952-53 season after knocking off Tennessee Tech on Saturday with a final score of 90-80. That win put EKU at 11-2 on the season. Tennessee Tech held on throughout the game and even a one-point advantage with around four minutes remaining in the game. However, the Colonels ripped off a 13-2 run over the final frame to earn the win. Eastern Kentucky knocked down 16 threes in the game while also sharing the ball well, notching 26 team assists.
Tre King led Eastern Kentucky with 29 points in this one. The Colonels already knocked off another Ohio Valley Conference favorite and mid-major darling in Austin Peay earlier this season. Furthermore, they won’t face off with red-hot Belmont until the second week of February. They’ll get the Bruins twice in the final month of league play and are shaping up to be their biggest threat for the regular-season title to this point.
Akron was poised to make some noise in last season’s NCAA Tournament before it was canceled. There was no reason to believe the Zips wouldn’t be a threat in the MAC again this season. However, their quest for a repeat regular-season title took a hit when they were upset by Eastern Michigan on Saturday. The Eagles picked up their first league win of the season while also knocking off Akron for the first time in three years. They were able to hold reigning MAC Player of the Year Loren Jackson to just 10 points in the victory.
Meanwhile, Eastern Michigan’s starters had a scoring explosion, with all five finishing in double-figures. They were led by Drew Lowder, who dropped 18 points. The Eagles outscored the Zips 34-24 in the paint on their way to a 22-point advantage with just under nine minutes in the second half. While the win was great for EMU, it is a blow to Akron as they try to keep pace with Bowling Green and Toledo for the MAC crown this season.
Jarred Godfrey of Purdue Fort Wayne went off for 41 points in an overtime win over Illinois-Chicago on Friday. That set a new career-high for Godfrey and was three short of the single-game school record set five years earlier. He also brought down four rebounds and had four steals. He shot 11-12 from the free-throw line and had 21 points at halftime. Godfrey also scored eight points in the extra frame, including seven straight to ice the game.
Jaren Holmes of Saint Bonaventure dropped 38 points in a blowout win over Saint Joseph’s on Wednesday. He shot 14-22 from the field and 8-12 from beyond the arc, setting a new career-high in threes made. He combined with teammate Jalen Adaway to outscore St. Joe’s on their own 62-57.
Terry Taylor was at it again, scoring 38 points in a win over Eastern Illinois on Saturday. However, Taylor’s most important points of the night came at the buzzer, banking in a triple to win the game. This was his 15th career game scoring at least 30 points. This was also his 100th career game scoring in double-figures. He added 17 rebounds for his 50th career double-double and is just the 16th Division I player with that amount over the last ten years. Taylor continues to cement himself as one of the best mid-major players ever.
Hayden Brown of The Citadel scored 37 points in a big win over Chattanooga on Saturday. That was a new career-high for Brown. After starting slow, he hit 10 of his final 11 shots while also shooting 7-10 from deep. He also grabbed 13 rebounds for his fifth double-double of the season. Brown has now had the two highest-scoring outputs by a player in the SoCon this season while helping the Bulldogs snap a 20-game conference losing streak.