After ending the regular season as champions, the men’s basketball team begins post-season play tonight in the Ohio Valley Conference semifinal round.
Playing in Municipal Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn., the Racers (28-1, 15-1) will take on Tennessee Tech (19-12, 9-7) an opponent they defeated twice this season.
The last meeting between the teams ended the regular season for both with the Murray State squad coming out on top 69-64 in Cookeville, Tenn., last Saturday. Before that, the Racers defeated the Golden Eagles 82-74 on Jan. 14.
During Tuesday’s press conference, Murray State Head Coach Steve Prohm was not concerned with what opponent his team would face tonight but rather how the Racers executed their own play, something the team focused on during practice this week.
“We just want to keep working on our stuff,” Prohm said. “Keeping it sharp keeping it fresh, keeping in condition, working on our defensive principles, transition in half court and going over offensive principles and getting a lot of shots up.”
In addition to focusing on personal performance, the seniors are preparing to play in their last conference tournament.
“(I’m excited about) just being able to be there again,” senior guard Donte Poole said. “I think a lot of people just misunderstand and take that for granted, not everyone gets to the conference tournament, not everyone has a chance to get a double-bye so just having an opportunity and cherishing that and just going in there with the mindset to play two games and win both of those games. Last year we went in Friday and lost that game so we definitely don’t want to go there and have that same thing happen again.”
Junior guard Isaiah Canaan has played in the last three OVC tournaments and is excited to put to rest the lingering doubts in any skeptics’ minds.
With 23 OVC titles and 14 OVC Tournament titles under their belt, the Racers aren’t new to the post-season, but junior forward Latreze Mushatt, a transfer from Missouri-Kansas City, is looking forward to the OVCs because for the first time he’ll get to play in them.
“Coming from a different school and not having the chance to even be in the talk of being regular season champs is great,” Mushatt said. “We’ve accomplished some things and this is awesome to be at Murray State and this tradition. We are excited about what’s going on and things aren’t going to change with us, we’re still going to play defense, we’re going to do the dirty work, that’s the core of our team.”
Sitting on the Racers’ bench in the CFSB Center, Mushatt looked up at the rafters dripping with tradition with banner after championship banner proclaiming Murray State’s basketball success throughout the years and a smile worked its way from his eyes to his mouth.
“When I came here on my visit I looked at all these OVC Tournament Champions and NCAA things and just hearing about the tradition I knew this program was a great program and I knew it was where I wanted to be,” Mushatt said. “They had great coaches and I knew all the support we had, so all you had to do was come here and play one game and be a team player. The team is awesome. We have great players on the team we’re all buying into what we need to be doing.”
The team mentioned excitement about the NCAA Tournament but remained focused on tonight’s game.
“Right now we have the OVC Tournament to take care of,” Mushatt said. “We’re not trying to lose because every game is huge to us because it’s the game we’re playing right then and right there and we play (tonight) at 6 and that’s what we’re focused on. I think that’s a good part of our team – we’re focused on the game right now and not the one two weeks later, so we’re ready for the OVC Tournament right now then everything else will take care of itself.”