The Racers (8-0) suited up against the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (2-6) for the 149th time and earned their 52nd victory in the matchup Thursday night.
Playing in Diddle Arena in front of 3,845 fans, Murray State defeated its longtime rival 70-59 despite a first half of sloppy moments and missed attempts.
Junior forward Ed Daniel gave the Racers the ball at tipoff and senior forward Ivan Aska put the team on the board 20 seconds into play.
The Racers went from a 62.5 field goal percentage at the 13:55 mark in the first half to a 41.2 percentage three minutes later after WKU took its first lead of the night.
Murray State slowly restored its lead as junior guard Isaiah Canaan gave the team a glimmer of hope with a three-pointer at the 6:10 mark to tie the game at 23 before junior guard Latreze Mushatt scored a three and put the Racers back on top where they would remain for the rest of the half.
Leading 40-28, Murray State went into the second half firing on all cylinders to pull away from WKU 46-20 in the first three and a half minutes of play.
The Racers’ momentum soon faded as the Toppers made a 14-1 run beginning with WKU’s junior guard Jamal Crook scoring back-to-back-to-back shots and decreased the Racers’ lead to three at the 10:09 mark, but that would be as close as the Toppers would come to winning.
After two free throws from Canaan, a layup by Aska and a three-point shot by senior guard Donte Poole, the Racers stretched their lead to nine and never looked back.
A missed jumper by Aska at 5:34 caused him to bow his head in disgust, but the team veteran responded 30 seconds later with a layup that brought the Racers lead to 11.
At the one-minute mark the Racers were on an 18-6 run and Daniel found himself alone on the Racers’ side of the court, and with an assist by senior guard Jewuan Long, made a dramatic dunk that pushed the score to 67-53.
Murray State ended the game with 33 rebounds, 13 turnovers and six steals. Despite shooting only 43.1 percent from the paint, the team brought its series record against WKU to 97-52 with the Hilltoppers still on top.
“I knew (WKU) would be ready to play tonight and they were, they were very aggressive and it hurt us at times,” Head Coach Steve Prohm said. “We were able to finally start defending them in the later parts of the first half and the early parts of the second half we were able to get it up to 18. It’s tough to win here and we knew they would make the run. I’m proud of our guys, they continue to be resilient and they were able to finish the game on top.”
When asked where to give credit to the team’s perfect season start, Canaan, who led the team with 18 points, smiled and pointed a finger to Prohm.
“Coach staying on us,” Canaan said. “The rest of the coaching staff has been doing a great job getting us prepared and breaking down film for us and pushing things in practice that we need to emphasize and get better at, and our team. We won’t quit fighting whoever is in front of us. We’re going to fight until we can’t fight any more, and that’s why we’re 8-0 right now.”
The team now turns their attention to preparing for Dayton at 1 p.m. Sunday in the CFSB Center.