Just another game: Rematch not fueled by revenge

Jesse Carruthers/The News

Sophie McDonald
Sports Editor

Jesse Carruthers/The News

Tennessee State and Murray State enjoy ending each other’s winning streaks.

Junior guard Isaiah Canaan had 24 points, four assists and was 5-for-7 behind the arc to take No. 12/14 Murray State to an 80-62 victory over Tennessee State Thursday night in Nashville, Tenn., ending the Tigers’ nine-game winning streak.

The teams met in Murray two weeks prior when Tennessee State ended the Racers’ (then No. 9) 23-game undefeated streak in a 72-68 upset. Since its loss, Murray State (27-1, 14-1, Ohio Valley Conference) has won three straight, including a 65-51 win over No. 21 Saint Mary’s Saturday.

“It wasn’t (revenge), it was just another game,” Canaan said. “We just wanted to come out and get a great win on the road. If a lot of other people look at it as a statement game then we’re fine with that but we were just focusing on coming in and getting a great road win against a great team.”

Senior guard Donte Poole added 16 points and three rebounds to the Murray State win, while Robert Covington led the Tigers (18-11, 11-5, OVC) in scoring with 24 points and 15 rebounds but it wasn’t enough to combat the Racers of Murray State.

“I thought Murray played extremely well,” Tennessee State Head Coach John Cooper said. “Not only did they make shots but I thought their resolve to stay with what they wanted to do, I thought they defended very well and obviously we didn’t have an answer for them. They were better than us tonight.”

The Racers played the Tigers in front of another sellout crowd, this time with 10,125 in attendance – a new record and the second largest non-graduation event in TSU’s history, right behind the 11,000 people who saw Stevie Wonder in 1980.

“It’s always wild over here,” Murray State Head Coach Steve Prohm said. “The band is loud, you can’t really hear in timeouts, it’s right on top of you, they were riding me pretty good behind the bench but that’s fun, that’s college basketball. They were killing me, making me feel bad about my upbringing in this business but that’s part of it. It was a good environment.”

The game was the Racers’ third consecutive senior night and was scoreless through the first two minutes with both teams struggling to get locked in until Poole launched a three and put the Racers on the board with 17:47 on the clock.

The announcer repeatedly mispronounced the Racers’ names but Murray State kept scoring, countering every effort by the Tigers until 15 minutes into the game when they pushed ahead to a seven-point lead that continued to increase.

Poole drained a three on an assist by Canaan with 4:15 on the clock, followed two minutes later by another three, this time by junior forward Latreze Mushatt that took the Racers to a 34-28 lead before Canaan and freshman guard Zay Jackson sank threes of their own.

With 0.02 on the clock, Poole drained another three to send the Racers into the break on top 45-28.

“What defines our team is one play,” Prohm said. “Isaiah Canaan is without a doubt a tremendous talent but it’s 42-28 and he’s playing extremely well and he could shoot a 20-footer to end the half and I probably wouldn’t blink an eye, make or miss, and that’s fine, but he gives it up to Donte and he hits a corner three and we go up 17. I think that summarizes our basketball team.”

In the first half, the Tigers were 0-for-7 behind the arc while the Racers were 8-for-13 and Murray State had nine assists to Tennessee State’s two.

Covington began the second half by scoring two points for the Tigers before Long made one-of-two free throw attempts and a three by Canaan and jumper by Poole pushed the score to 50-36, all within the first four and a half minutes.

Another 3-pointer by Mushatt at 13:21 in the half gave the Racers a 20-point lead, the largest lead of the game.

Later, Long stole the ball and dunked to give Murray State a 19-point lead with less than 10 minutes remaining.

The last five minutes of the game displayed junior forward Ed Daniel scoring his first point of the game with a free throw, Poole’s fourth 3-pointer of the night and Canaan’s fifth long ball of the night.

With 1:40 remaining, Tennessee State’s Jordan Cyphers had words with Jackson, who was held back by Canaan, before Cyphers was issued a personal foul and Jackson a technical.

To end the game, Jackson connected on a jumper shortly before the buzzer sounded.

“I think we’re playing pretty good on the defensive end of the floor, I think our guys are playing with confidence,” Prohm said. “I just want them to experience great things – that’s a coach’s job. It’s not about the coach, it’s about the players and you want them to experience the best: OVC Championships then NCAA Tournament – let’s see how far we can go.”

Murray State will face Tennessee Tech at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in Cookeville, Tenn., to end regular season play.