Racers fall in OVC semifinals

Carly Besser
Staff writer

 

The 2012 season came to an end Friday for the Murray State women’s basketball team.

The No. 4 seed Racers fell with a 102-77 loss to No. 1 seed UT-Martin in the semifinals of the Ohio Valley Conference tournament in Municipal Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn.

“I thought we showed some poise and fought a little bit but we just couldn’t get it,” Murray State Head Coach Rob Cross said. “The lead went down to 11, 10, 9, 8 but we couldn’t get it down to seven or six.”

Led by sophomore guard Erica Burgess with 21 points and six rebounds, Murray State ended the game shooting for 42 percent in the paint and 36 percent behind the three point line.

Starters for the Racers included senior guard Mallory Schwab, junior guard Tessa Elkins, sophomore guard Erica Burgess, senior forward Kayla Lowe and junior forward Kyra Watson.

A formidable challenge was in store early for the Racers, as UT Martin lived up to its No. 1 ranking for three-point shooting in the OVC.

“We know they can shoot it,” Lowe said. “Not just one or two of them. Their whole team can shoot it.”

A powerful zone defense executed by the Racers kept the Skyhawks beyond the arc with no chance to penetrate, which gave the Skyhawks a hard time to adjust in the beginning. A three-point shot by UT-Martin’s Jaclissa Haislip put the first points on the board.

“We played zone early to keep them from running their offense because they’re so efficient offensively,” Cross said. “They weren’t really ready for that. Who would be?”

The Racers kept their similar tournament offensive tactic of assisting Watson to shoot close to the rim. A banked shot by Watson set a powerful momentum for them, putting Murray State in a close 3 point lead at 14:28.

“They’re a great scoring team as evidence of five kids shooting in the double figures,” UT-Martin Head Coach Kevin McMillan said. “Which really worries you, so we knew we had to defend well.”

Within a minute of play, UT-Martin regained their composure and used opportunities at the free throw line to regain the lead. From then, they never looked back. Keeping Haislip open put the Racers in a predicament, digging themselves in a 12 point deficit by the final eight minutes of the first half.

At the halftime buzzer, the Racers trailed by 12 and shot for 40 percent in the paint, 41 percent beyond the perimeter.

The Skyhawks’ three point momentum wasn’t interrupted by the break, sinking one for every Racer basket in the paint. Their lead increased to 17 with 16:45 left in the game.

The Racers kept their sites close to the rim for the second half as well, forcing UT-Martin to mimic a zone defense. Cold behind the three point line, Murray State took their chances with Watson and Burgess driving it to the rim in a final attempt to get back in the game.

Fatigued and slowly losing poise, the Racers allowed UT-Martin keep a 20-point cushion throughout the final minutes of the second half.

“They’re quick just like us,” Burgess said. “So we did a lot of fouling and put them on the free throw line. We came up short.”

Schwab and Elkins were both fouled out late into the game. Burgess and Robinson were close behind in their own foul trouble, each with three.

Moods were sullen on the Racer side of the court when the Skyhawks finished the game with a 25 point lead and a final score of 102-77.

“Getting two steps away from the NCAA tournament is every player’s dream,” Cross said.

Photos by Ryan Richardson/The News