The Mocs head out Las Vegas to play in the Las Vegas Invitational- Bracket Portion. They have already played UCLA and Nevada as part of the Las Vegas Invitational, but now there is a bracket and a chance to win and advance to play a more meaningful game. The Mocs will get to play Friday no matter what, but this Thanksgiving Day battle with Morehead State will be worth the price of admission.
It's a difficult day for Moc fans. Thanksgiving is a day for family and for eating turkey. It's hardly a day to listen to a game and force your family to do the same. But this is a chance for the Mocs to take on a quality team and see if they can come up with their first D1 win of the year. It will also be a way to get the bitter taste of that performance against UCLA out of their mouths. Yes, eat your turkey, but get ready for a really good basketball team.
Morehead State is 5-2 and an extremely talented basketball team. They hung around with UCLA for most of the night and then upset Nevada by five two nights later. That means they outperformed the Mocs in both locations. This team has worked their way into a position to be considered one of the favorites in the OVC. They also have the likely biggest match-up problem in this portion of the bracket in Chad Posthumus, who is 6-11 and averaging 11.4 points and 13.3 rebounds per game. In the first two games against Mid-Continent College and ETSU, he averaged just 8.5 points and had eight rebounds per game. In the five games since then (where the Eagles have gone just 3-2), he is averaging 12.6 points per game and 15.4 rebounds per game. He has had 15, 16, 18, and 16 rebounds in the last four games. Against UCLA, he had 21 points and 18 rebounds. Against Northern Kentucky, he did score just six points, but had 16 rebounds. He did commit seven turnovers. He is also not a great free throw shooter, at just 55.3% on the year. Those may be the two ways to stop him- foul him or hope he commits a turnover. The only other way is to hope he gets into foul trouble.
Angelo Warner is the leading scorer. He is averaging 16.0 points per game. He has made 15 threes on the year, and scored 16.8 points per game in the last four games. He scored 25 against Northern Kentucky. He also is an excellent free throw shooter. He can fill up the basket. Brent Arrington has been shooting over 42% from three point range on the year, and is averaging 12.3 points per game. He can get in a little bit of foul trouble, though. He fouled out once, and had four fouls three other times already this year. Only once all year has he had fewer than three fouls. That was against a Marshall, an overtime win for Morehead State in which he scored a season high 24 points.
Ths Mocs will be seriously tested on the inside. How TJ Williams, Z Mason and Lance Stokes guard Posthumus will be the key. They will need to attack him on the offensive end and hope he picks up a few fouls and has to sit. If that happens, the Mocs can focus on the perimeter players, which is where Warner and Arrington are so dangerous. Both are good shooters. The question really is if the Mocs can force them into some turnovers with the pressure. Warner has been averaging 2.4 turnovers per game. So there is a chance.
Also, Gee McGhee needs to get back to driving to the basket. He is so talented at that. I think if he does that in this game, the Mocs can score some points.
Morehead State is the second best basketball team the Mocs have faced this year, behind UCLA. This is an immense challenge. But the Mocs were embarrassed on Sunday night a little bit. They will bring the effort and intensity in this one and hang around. The defense is not good enough to slow all those guys down. Posthumus will help the Eagles clean up the glass, though the Mocs effort will keep the battle on the boards closer than we have any right to expect. In the end, the scrappy Mocs come up short, but put together a better performance than they did against UCLA. Morehead State 86, Mocs 79.