Cheered on by a sea of fans in yellow, the Racers played bold in gold.
Led by senior forward Kayla Lowe with 22 points and five rebounds, Murray State (10-14, 6-5 Ohio Valley Conference) pulled a 63-62 win in its second meet of the season against Southeast Missouri on Saturday afternoon in the CFSB Center.
“We’re getting better playing as a team and better with pressure situations,” Lowe said. “[Rob Cross] is a big coach on learning from games. We try to improve every game. “
Starters for the team were junior guards Tessa Elkins and Mariah Robinson, redshirt sophomore guard Erica Burgess, Lowe and junior forward Kyra Watson.
The Redhawks hit the ground running with the tipoff in their favor and guard Allyson Bradshaw started an unstoppable momentum in the first minutes of the game. Bradshaw left the game as the leading scorer for SEMO with 20 points.
Finishing the half with 50 percent beyond the perimeter, it was a game of catch up for Murray State.
After trying their luck beyond the arc with 0-4 attempts made in the first five minutes, the Racers started out cold with travel calls and desperate fouls, giving SEMO the majority of ball possession time.
“It was a pretty good game for both teams,” Racers Coach Cross said. “But we had to improve our shooting from the first half. We just couldn’t make shots and broke down defensively.”
Regaining focus in the last 10 minutes of the half, the Racers went toe to toe with Southeast Missouri, changing the lead twice with the help of Watson’s six points inside the perimeter.
The first half ended with a seven point lead by the Redhawks, shooting 33 percent in field goals. The Racers trailed behind shooting for only 9-30 and losing the lead twice.
The same scenario bled into the second half with SEMO keeping at least a five point cushion while the Racers fought to stay close with new tactics to break a seemingly impenetrable defense.
Typically being a player to take it to the inside, Burgess was in rare form when she made two three point shots in heavy traffic. The Racers gained back what seemed to be a long lost lead with 12 minutes left in the game.
“Burgess showed a lot of initiative tonight,” Cross said. “She had some big assists and when she gets her head in the game she’s really good.”
With one minute left in the game and a tie score, the battle for the win was aggressive on both sides of the court. Senior guard Mallory Schwab, Watson and Elkins faced foul trouble, both with three under their belts and Lowe with four.
“We got what we wanted. We got that shot as the clock was going off,” Cross said. “I’m proud of the execution of getting Southeast Missouri in a desperation heave.”
An and-one by Burgess sealed the game for Murray State.
“I don’t think we would have been able to pull that win without the experience,” Lowe said. “We’ve grown a lot as a team as opposed to the beginning of the season.”
The next game for the Racers will be at 7 p.m. on Feb. 13 against Austin Peay in the CFSB Center.