The men’s basketball team celebrated the end of finals week with a 76-72 win against the No. 20 ranked Memphis University Tigers (5-
3) in the FedExForum in Memphis, Tenn. Sunday night.
For the first time since 2002, the Racers took on the Tigers serving Memphis their 16th loss in 147 games in the FedExForum since its opening in 2004 and the era of the Prohminator continues in 10-0 perfection.
Murray State is now ranked No. 24 in the nation by the AP as well as CBS Sports NCAA Top-25 Rankings marking the first time an OVC men’s basketball team has been in the AP’s Top-25 since the end of the 1997-1998 season when the Racers were ranked No. 25, but Prohm said he believes the team will manage the hype well.
“These guys are resilient, they’ll handle it the right way,” Prohm said. “They’ll enjoy this tonight and they should, they deserve to enjoy it tonight, but (Monday) we’ll lift and watch tape and shoot free throws and have a recovery day then Tuesday and Wednesday I’ll focus on Lipscomb and we move past this game.”
The first half of the high-intensity game showed the Racers shooting 41.7 percent from the paint, 40 percent from the arc and 71.4 percent at the line in front of 16,795 people—their largest audience of the season. Junior guard Isaiah Canaan was heavily guarded and scored only four points in the first 20 minutes. The teams went into halftime with Murray State leading 34-29.
Memphis scored the first eight points of the half, going to the line immediately before taking their first lead of the game with just under 19 minutes left on the clock.
Senior forward Donte Poole, who scored 14 of his 20 points in the second half, lifted a three to get the fire started on Murray State’s end of the court and Canaan followed with a three pointer of his own to tip the score back in the Racers’ favor.
All 16,795 people were on their feet for the last minute of play. As the Racers found itself on the giving and receiving end of personal fouls, the assistant coaches reigned in Prohm when a timeout wasn’t called and with 22.2 seconds left the score was 71-68.
After a foul, Aska made both free throws to the dismay of the crowd who vocalizes their frustration. Their frustration continues with seven seconds to go and Canaan goes to the line and gets nothing but net in his two attempts and raises the score to 75-72.
With 1.1 second remaining in the game, Murray State leads by three and freshman guard Zay Jackson goes to the line and makes one before the clock runs out and the Racer fans in attendance make their presence known in cheers and applause at Murray State’s four point win.
Eye on the Tiger
The Racers ended the game with 10 steals, 31 rebounds, 16 assists and forced Memphis to 15 turnovers. The team improved in the second half to a 44.8 field goal percentage, 50 percent at the arc and a 73.3 percent at the line.
Canaan had a less prominent role than typical but stepped up for a game-leading seven assists in addition to 15 points, four rebounds and three turnovers.
Poole led the Racers in scoring with 20 points, going a career high 6-8 at the arc and 7-11 in the paint as well as contributing four steals in his 35 minutes of play.
“We knew coming in it was going to be a tough run but we didn’t come in second guessing ourselves, we came in here to win the game,” Poole said. “We knew that we were going to have to do that in the defensive end and execute with the noise and we played a good game.”
As always, Murray State Head Coach Steve Prohm said this win is all about perspective.
“With these 10 games we’re just a little more than a third of the way into the season, but it’s a great win,” he said. “I keep challenging (the team), this can’t be the pinnacle—we want a lot more and you do that by going home and looking at the tape and getting ready for Lipscomb on Thursday.”
Just because the team is undefeated doesn’t mean preparation for games will change, Prohm said.
“Our approach is to win every single game we play and we’ll prepare like that,” he said. “We prepare for Tennessee Temple like we do for Memphis. We watch a ton of tape, we go through the same scouting report and we go through the same routine because anybody can beat anybody in college basketball, that’s what makes the game so special.”
The Racers return home to host Lipscomb at 7 p.m. Thursday in the CFSB Center.