Nick Mayo is only the second player in the 71-year history of the Ohio Valley Conference to be voted first-team All-OVC 4 times!
BRENTWOOD, Tenn. -Eastern Kentucky senior Nick Mayo and freshman guard Jomaru Brownwere named to All-OVC teams today. Mayo (23.7 points, 8.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.8 blocks/game) was named First-Team All-OVC for the fourth straight year becoming only the second player in the OVC to ever achieve this honor, joining Western Kentucky’s Ralph Crosthwaite (1954-55 through 1958-59). Brown (14.4 points, 3.0 rebounds, 1.9 steals/game, 43.9 FG%) was named to the All-OVC All-Newcomer team.
Murray State sophomore guard Ja Morant was named the 2018-19 Ohio Valley Conference Men’s Basketball Player of the Year after leading the Racers to a 16-2 league record and a share of OVC regular season championship. His senior teammate Shaq Buchanan was tabbed the OVC Defensive Player of the Year, Belmont center Nick Muszynski was named Freshman of the Year while his coach, Rick Byrd, was named OVC Coach of the Year. The awards were voted on by league head coaches and communications directors.
Morant has put together one of the top statistical seasons in OVC history and has garnered national attention for his play-making ability and athleticism. A projected top five NBA pick, Morant enters this week ranked first nationally in assists (10.3/game), which is 2.5 assists/game more than second place. He is also eighth nationally in scoring (24.1 points/game), fifth in double-doubles (19) and one of two players to have multiple triple-doubles in 2018-19. The sophomore is on pace to become the first player since the NCAA began tracking assists in 1983-84 to average 20-plus points and 10-plus assists in a single season. Morant has 14 games this year with 20-plus points and 10-plus assists; no other player nationally has three such games. He smashed the OVC single-season assists record and enters this week with 300 assists, just the 16th time in NCAA Division I history a player has reached that level; with 10 more assists he will enter the NCAA’s single-season Top 10.
His 18 assists in a game against UT Martin are the most by a Division I player this year and the second-most in OVC single-game history. His 19 double-doubles are just three off the nation’s lead and he is the only player in the top 20 nationally in double-doubles under 6’6″ tall. In January Morant became the first Division I player in 20 years to record 40 points, 11 assists and five steals in a regulation game. In that contest he hit 21-of-21 free throws, establishing a new OVC single-game record (just three off the NCAA mark); he was the first Division I player with 21 or more made free throws in a game without a miss in the past 20 years. All of these accolades has made him a candidate for all the major awards including the Wooden Award, Naismith Award, Oscar Robertson Trophy and the Lute Olson Award each given to the National Player of the Year and the Bob Cousy Award, given to the nation’s top point guard. Morant is the second-straight and 15th Murray State player to take home the Player of the Year honor.
Buchanan was a big part of the Racers being able to rank high in several NCAA defensive stats including 3-point defense (5th at 28.7%) and field goal defense (38th at 40.8%). Murray State also ranks first in the OVC in scoring defense (67.7 points/game allowed) and blocked shots (4.7/game) and second in rebounding defense (34.1/game). Those numbers have helped MSU rank fifth-nationally in scoring margin (+16.1 points/game). Individually, Buchanan ranks 64th nationally and third in the OVC in steals (1.86), tallying 54 in 29 games this season. He had a season-best seven steals in a win at Middle Tennessee and added six steals in a home court victory over Eastern Kentucky. Buchanan is the second Murray State player (joining Jewuan Long in 2011-12) to be named OVC Defensive Player of the Year since the award was first handed out in 2008-09.
Muszynski has made an immediate impact in the post for Belmont, starting all 29 games of his redshirt freshman season and helping the Bruins to a share of the OVC regular season championship and a 25-4 overall record. Nationally the freshman ranks 18th in field goal percentage (61.5%) and 26th in blocked shots (2.18/game) entering this week. In addition to those categories, among OVC players he is ninth in scoring (15.0/game) and 13th in rebounding (6.0/game) and free throw percentage (77.1%). Muszynski scored in double figures in 23 of 29 games, including a season-high 27 points in only 24 minutes of action against Southeast Missouri. He had a season-best 11 rebounds in a win over rival Lipscomb and blocked five shots in wins over Illinois State and Lipscomb. He was named OVC Freshman of the Week six times during the season. Muszynski is the first Belmont player to be named OVC Freshman of the Year since they joined the league in 2012-13.
Byrd helped Belmont to a share of the OVC regular season championship (16-2), the fifth title for Belmont in seven years as a member of the OVC. Using a lineup that included three redshirt freshmen, the Bruins were 9-2 in non-conference play, the best mark of the program’s Division I era. Belmont was one of only two NCAA Division I programs to go undefeated in the month of November while playing at least three true road games (Furman was the other). Included in its non-conference wins was a 74-72 victory at UCLA, which marked just the fourth home loss for UCLA in its last 40 games, just its second loss in 42 home games against non-Power 5 teams and only its 14th loss in 125 games after they had been leading by double digits. After the win Belmont picked up votes in both the AP and Coaches Top 25 polls (its eighth season out of the last nine picking up national votes). After an overtime loss to Jacksonville State on January 17, the Bruins have reeled off 13-straight wins (fourth nationally) to close out the regular season. Belmont also has 12 true road wins, tied for the most nationally entering the week. Entering this week Belmont ranks first nationally in assists (20.1/game), second in scoring (88.5 points/game), third in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.69), fifth in field goal percentage (50.4%), ninth in 3-pointers made/game (10.6), 12th in scoring margin (+14.2/game) and 25th in 3-point percentage (38.2%) and rebounding (39.11/game). On February 21, Byrd picked up his 800th career victory with a win over Eastern Illinois. He currently ranks fifth among active Division I coaches in wins and 12th all-time. He has guided Belmont to 20-plus wins in 13 of the past 14 seasons. This marks the fourth OVC Coach of the Year award for Byrd, joining ones he won in 2013, 2014 and 2017. That ranks as the second-most in OVC history, trailing only the five won by Austin Peay’s Dave Loos.
This year’s first and second-team All-OVC squads included 15 players from 10 different OVC schools. Belmont had three selections while Austin Peay, Jacksonville State, Morehead State and Murray State had two picks apiece. The first and second-teams included eight seniors, two juniors, four sophomore and two freshmen.
Morant, the OVC Player of the Year, was the top vote getter in earning his second-straight first-team All-OVC honor. He was one of four players to repeat as first-team selections as he was joined by Belmont senior Dylan Windler (21.1 points, 10.3 rebounds/game, 54.7 FG%, 83 made 3-pointers), Austin Peay sophomore Terry Taylor (20.6 points, 8.8 rebounds/game, 53.6 FG%).
Along with Mayo, the All-OVC first-team also included Murray State’s Buchanan, the Defensive Player of the Year, and Belmont’s Muszynski, the Freshman of the Year. The first-team was rounded out by Jacksonville State senior forward Jason Burnell (17.0 points, 9.6 rebounds, 2.9 assists/game, 50.1 FG%), Belmont senior guard Kevin McClain (16.2 points/game, 4.2 assists, 3.3 rebounds/game, 61 made 3-pointers), Morehead State sophomore guard Jordan Walker (15.6 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.4 assists/game, 66 made 3-pointers) and Eastern Illinois sophomore guard Josiah Wallace (15.2 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.0 assists/game).
The All-OVC second-team (which included six individuals due to a tie in voting) included Austin Peay senior forward Chris Porter-Bunton (13.0 points, 4.9 rebounds, 1.4 steals/game, 40.5 3-point percentage), Jacksonville State senior guard Marlon Hunter (12.7 pints, 3.9 rebounds/game), Tennessee Tech freshman guard Jr. Clay (14.4 points, 4.3 assists, 3.8 rebounds/game), Morehead State senior forward Lamontray Harris (13.6 points, 8.2 rebounds/game, 52.5 FG%), Tennessee State junior guard Donte Fitzpatrick-Dorsey (14.3 points, 5.4 rebounds/game) and UT Martin junior forward Quintin Dove (12.6 points, 5.2 rebounds/game, 59.0 FG%).
Joining Brown, Muszynski, the OVC Freshman of the Year, was also an All-Newcomer selection in addition to being a first-team pick. He was joined by another first-team selection in EIU’s Wallace and TTU’s Clay, who was a second-team pick. That trio was joined by Murray State junior center Darnell Cowart (10.3 points, 6.5 rebounds/game, 57.2 FG%).
2018-19 All-OVC Men’s Basketball Teams
OVC Player of the Year: Ja Morant, Murray State
OVC Defensive Player of the Year: Shaq Buchanan, Murray State
OVC Freshman of the Year: Nick Muszynski, Belmont
OVC Coach of the Year: Rick Byrd, Belmont
ALL-OVC FIRST TEAM
Ja Morant, Murray State
Dylan Windler, Belmont
Terry Taylor, Austin Peay
Jason Burnell, Jacksonville State
Nick Mayo, Eastern Kentucky
Kevin McClain, Belmont
Jordan Walker, Morehead State
Josiah Wallace, Eastern Illinois
Nick Muszynski, Belmont
Shaq Buchanan, Murray State
ALL-OVC SECOND TEAM
Chris Porter-Bunton, Austin Peay
Marlon Hunter, Jacksonville State
Jr. Clay, Tennessee Tech
Lamontray Harris, Morehead State
Donte Fitzpatrick-Dorsey, Tennessee State
Quintin Dove, UT Martin
Nick Muszynski, Belmont
Josiah Wallace, Eastern Illinois
Jr. Clay, Tennessee Tech
Darnell Cowart, Murray State
Jomaru Brown, Eastern Kentucky
There are 6 people on the All-OVC Second Team due to a tie in voting.