The era of the Prohminator has begun.
With excitement so thick you could slice and dice it, the Racers began the season Friday night in front of 2,440 fans and ended the evening with a 76-49 victory over the Harris-Stowe Hornets marking the 22nd consecutive home-opener win for the Racers.
Senior forward Ivan Aska made a layup 40 seconds into the game to put Murray State on the board and the Racers never looked back.
A shot by senior guard Jewaun Long, a steal by senior guard Donte Poole and a block and rebound by junior forward Ed Daniel in the first two minutes of play, set the stage for the rest of the game.
Harris-Stowe responded to the Racers resolve as the Hornets came within one point of Murray State, but that was as close as they would get for the remainder of the game.
While leading the Hornets in all aspects except rebounds going into the half, the Racers still displayed a less than stellar performance allowing six turnovers in the first 10 minutes of play.
Coming back from halftime, Murray State appeared locked in and comfortable on the hardwood as Aska again scored first followed by 3-point shots from Poole and junior guard Isaiah Canaan bringing the score to 43-30.
Playing with aggression, heart and determination, the team improved in the second half and shut down the Hornets for the last 1:30 of the game.
However, just because there was only a minute left in the game didn’t mean the Racers stopped scoring. Freshman Zay Jackson scored a layup followed by a dunk by junior Brandon Garret and another layup by freshman guard Jaylen Bland to leave the Racers with the W.
“Overall I was pleased,” Steve Prohm said of his first official season game as head coach. “We went into the locker room only up seven and they were outrebounding us,” he said. “The second half we outscored them by 20, won the rebounding battle by 16 and were able to shoot over 70 percent from the free throw line.”
The Racer scoring was led by Aska and Poole with Aska ending the night with a game-high nine rebounds and 16 total points, while Poole led both teams in scoring with his career-high 18 points as well as three free throws, and four steals.
“I can’t say enough about Ivan,” Prohm said. “If you watched him the whole game I thought he competed at a high level. I thought he really competed, he chased balls down, he competed above the rim at times and then we finally started getting fluid offensively in what we wanted to do with ball reversals, post-leads and attacking from the baseline on dribble penetration. Once we started doing that it was two or three baskets in a row for Ivan starting the lead out in the first half.”
Prohm said he was pleased with Poole’s performance as well.
“When Poole is locked in he’s very good with his hands, he’s good in the passing lanes and he made one three-pointer,” Prohm said. “He made three free throws and drove the basketball and got in the paint.”
The Hornets displayed an athletic and defensive team and at times played five guards on the court.
“At the end of the day we won,” Prohm said. “It’s probably a 20-point game that might have been a little more if we would have executed at times, but give them a little credit, they didn’t just come in here and run down and jack shots.”
With his first official season win as head coach under his belt, Prohm said he feels relief.
“These games are always tough,” he said. “I told the guys at half time I’ve experienced it all – I’ve won championships, I’ve won NCAA tournament games, been in the NCAA tournament, been in the NIT, lost to Division-II, when I was a Tulane we lost to an NAI team so I’ve been on every spectrum and you don’t want to be on that spectrum, it’s a miserable feeling so you need to get your tails in gear and get ready to play. And if you saw the first five minutes (of the second half) you could tell they were a totally different team and were locked in.”
Despite the win, improvement is always possible, Aska said.
“We need to get better everyday, we can’t take any days off and there is no particular area that we need to get better in, it’s every area,” he said. “If we want to get to March we have to do everything, we have to get better, we have to listen, we have to compete it’s the little things that will help us get ready for Monday and for the whole season.”
The Racers fly to Baltimore, Md., Sunday to compete against Morgan State at 6 p.m. Monday before returning to the CFSB Center Nov. 17 to host Tennessee Temple.