2/15 Bidwell's Blog: Ten things to watch for 'Round Two'

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Last night, I went back and watched the Murray State/SEMO game from two weeks ago and several things jumped out at me. See this page for my list of observations from the game.

Last night, I went back and watched the Murray State/SEMO game from two weeks ago and several things jumped out at me.  In no particular order, here are ten things I learned which could play a role in tonight's game.

1.  Ed Daniel has to stay on the floor tonight for the Racers.  Daniel was persona non grata in the first matchup.  He picked up two fouls by the first media timeout and played just 14 minutes before fouling out with two points and five rebounds.  He's the only true shot blocker the Racers have and he HAS to stay on the floor to help neutralize SEMO's Leon Powell and Tyler Stone.

2.  Speaking of Powell and Stone, they need to stay out of foul trouble as well if SEMO want's to pull the upset tonight.  As a tandem, they are the true matchup advantage the Redhawks have.  In the first game, those two combined for 17 points and five rebounds in the first half -- albeit with Daniel mostly on the bench.  In the second half, once they had to deal with some foul issues of their own, they scored just eight points and grabbed eight rebounds.

3.  Former Christian County high school standout Corey Wilford averages just 6.3 PPG this year for SEMO.  In the first meeting, he provided a huge boost off the bench scoring 15 points, with 12 of them coming in the first half.  While he had to take 14 shots to get those 15 points, his three-point flurry in the first half helped the Redhawks jump to that early 11-point lead.  If it's not Wilford tonight, will any other role player be able to come up big?

4.  Speaking of that 11-point lead -- SEMO led by 11 as late as the 17:26 mark in the 2nd half.  Thanks to some poor shot decisions and careless turnovers, the lead evaporated quickly.  Isaiah Canaan's 3-point shooting certainly didn't help matters for them either.  If SEMO gets another lead tonight, will they be able to hold it?

5.  In the first meeting, with 5:00 left in the first half, Canaan still hadn't scored.  He finished with 32 points.  Watching him make his six three-pointers, something struck me on almost all of them.  The Redhawks didn't seem to respect his ability to hit the shot from 25-feet.  For the most part, the SEMO defenders wouldn't come out past the three-point line to try to get a hand in his face.  That essentially gave Canaan an open look from 25-feet over and over and over.  If you've watched more than five minutes of any Murray State game this year, you know Canaan is more than capable of making a three from well beyond the arc.  How will SEMO adjust tonight?

6.  Ivan Aska saved the day the first time around.  Canaan's 32 points got all of the attention, but it was Aska that kept the Racers within striking distance in the first half.  When the Racers offense went in the tank early, especially with Canaan being held in check, Aska had six points and six rebounds in the first half.  Those may not seem like huge numbers, but he did a good job finishing around the rim and giving the Racers another offensive option that didn't revolve around the three-point shot.  I can't wait to watch Aska and Powell go at it again tonight.

7.  We touched on this last night, but Murray State's Donte Poole is ready for a big night.  He's in the middle of a four-game slump that happened to start against SEMO.  For the first 21 games of the season, Poole averaged 14.7 PPG while shooting 46.7% from the field and 41.2% from three-point range.  In the last four games, he is averaging 8.5 PPG while shooting just 21.9% from the floor and 20.0% from beyond the arc.  To quote Steve Prohm from earlier in the week, "he's due."

8.  SEMO's Nick Niemczyk is back.  He missed most of a month, including the first meeting, dealing with a concussion.  He's one of the Redhawks best three-point shooters at 36.6% for the year, knocking down at least a pair of threes in each of his last 10 games.  Niemczyk is by no means a sharp-shooter, but he's definitely a threat the Racers will need to pay attention to.

9.  It's 'Senior Night' at the Show Me Center.  Marcus Brister sort of put a bulls-eye on his back with his "can't wait" comments after the first game.  It's his last game at home in front of a sold-out crowd against one of the Redhawks' biggest rivals.  Will Brister, and fellow-senior Leon Powell, be able to handle the emotion of the night and play their best?

10.  Will SEMO have an answer for the inevitable Murray State 'avalanche'?  I say it's inevitable because we seem to see it every night when Murray State makes a big run the opponent is unable to respond to.  Last time out, SEMO led 46-35 with 17:26 left.  Before they knew it, the Racers bowled them over with a 24-2 run in the next six minutes.  If Murray State makes another run tonight, will SEMO have learned any lessons from "Round One"?

Tonight's game is sold out at the Show Me Center.  It's first sellout in that building since these two met on February 12, 2000.  To paraphrase Marcus Brister, I can't wait for this one.

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