Junior guard Isaiah Canaan felt as though he couldn’t miss — and it showed.
Canaan hit six of his 10 3-point attempts and scored 21 points to lead the Racers (No. 24 AP) to a 66-53 win over Arkansas State on Saturday night.
“A lot of teams have tried to take me away and Arkansas State tried to lose me a little bit so I made them hurt,” said Canaan, who is 20 points shy of reaching 1,000 in his career. “We had to get going sooner or later and once I saw the first one go through, I felt like I wasn’t going to miss anymore.”
Ivan Aska added 14 points and 11 rebounds, and Donte Poole had 11 points for Murray State (12-0), which is off to its best start since the 1950-51 season.
“I never thought we’d be 12-0,” Aska said. “But it comes with hard work, no days off and playing every day like it’s our last and buying into the system and listening to the coaches.”
Canaan, who has scored in double figures in 13 straight games dating to last season, had five 3-pointers in the first half for Murray State, which went 8 of 19 from beyond the arc to help offset 15 turnovers.
“It was a good win for our program tonight,” coach Steve Prohm said. “It was a tough and challenging week, they stayed focused with Thursday’s game and then a quick one-day turnaround Saturday for Arkansas State. I really wanted to finish our nonconference season strong and now take tomorrow off and put all our attention on Martin and getting into a new swing of things and that’s Ohio Valley Conference play.”
Arkansas State coach John Brady compared Canaan to guards in the SEC and said the Racers gave them a run for their money.
“They’re a good team,” Brady said. “Their perimeter is as good as we’ve played, in fact Canaan visited us and Murray State and he came to Murray State and I can’t for the life of me understand why Mississippi State or Ole Miss didn’t offer the young man a scholarship. I mean, he’s an SEC guard—a good one. He’s got some guys with him that know how to take care of the ball and pass and make some shots. Their post play is good enough, they play hard and are active, not overly big but play hard and are active.”
The Red Wolves (5-6) led for the first 15 minutes before Murray State pulled away for a 41-30 lead early in the second half. The Racers led 35-30 at the break and improved to 10-0 when leading at halftime.
“We only gave up six offensive rebounds and held them to 40 percent field goal percentage and 40 is a pretty good number,” Prohm said. “And to only give up basically six rebounds on 29 missed shots … I’m very pleased with that and we outrebounded them by 11 and that’s a good number.”
Ed Townsel scored the first eight points of the game and led the Red Wolves with 17. Adam Sterrenberg added 10.
“(Townsel) is a Mississippi player so I’m sure his coach told him about me,” said Canaan, a Mississippi native. “I guess his mentality was to go at me first and I give him a lot of credit, he came out ready to play. He caught me off guard a few times and he took it at me the first half.”
The Red Wolves’ reserves outscored Murray State’s by five in Brady’s 600th career game.
“Outside of the first eight minutes to start the second half we were OK,” Brady said. “We missed a few layups and jump shots but they bothered us with their pressure. We had 10 turnovers the first half which wasn’t good enough to win, but we only had five the second half and probably had three of those to open the second half.”
The Racers open conference play Wednesday at home against Tennessee-Martin.
“I’m excited about the win, no question about that,” Prohm said. “You can never take winning for granted; every game is tough to win, especially at this level. I have a lot of respect for coach Brady and his staff. They do a very good job and he is without question one of the best coaches in the country.”