Was there a more appropriate way to start the first exhibition game of the season than with Isaiah Canaan draining a deep three in the first 30 seconds of the game?
Canaan would finish up the exhibition against Freed-Hardeman with 16 points on 50 percent shooting, along with five assists and four rebounds in a lower than usual 30 minutes of playing time.
Another player, however, also scored 16 points and stole the show on the cold, rainy night.
Jeffery Moss, a freshman from Madison, Ala., wowed fans and coaches alike with 16 points, shooting 6-11 from the field and 4-7 from three point range.
“We saw it coming with the practices we’ve been having the last few weeks,” Canaan said. “He doesn’t have any fear. We’ve just got to get him to know everything, but we knew coming in that he was going to be one of the ones that’s going to be helping us and he showed tonight that he’s going to be ready to play whenever he’s called.”
Moss made his first appearance in a Racer uniform at the 15:03 mark in the first half. Less than a minute later he had Racer Nation on its feet after draining a three to give his team a 14-12 lead. With a grin from ear to ear as he retreated back on defense, the 3,383 fans gathered in the CFSB Center loudly welcomed Moss to Racer basketball.
“He made shots, so that’s what everybody probably catches wind of, but I also thought he was our best young kid defensively,” said Head Coach Steve Prohm. “He just knew what was going on. He came from a really good high school program. He was a football player so he’s got some toughness. The one thing he has surprised us all with a little bit is he’s shooting the ball better than we thought. Hopefully he can continue that and get some confidence. He’s going to push people for minutes if he continues to play like that.”
The Lions of Freed-Hardeman played the Racers tough on both the offensive and defensive end. After the first 12 minutes, the game was tied at 27, with the Lions shooting an even 50 percent from the field. Sophomore guard Orlando Bass led Freed-Hardeman with seven points in the first seven minutes of the game.
Struggling on defense, the Racers headed into halftime with a slim 45-42 lead.
“(We need to work on) rebounding and playing hard for the whole shot clock on the defensive end,” Canaan said. “For a few years we’ve always been number one in deflections and steals and that’s what we want to do again this year. We’re going to crack down on our defensive side and the offense will come.”
The Racers did indeed improve their defensive effort after the break. More than doubling the lead in the first five minutes of the second half, at times the Racers played an all-freshmen lineup. By the 7:50 mark, the youth movement was working as the Racers built up a 10 point lead they would not relinquish.
The clock hit zero, giving Murray State the 87-74 victory. With every eligible and healthy player on the roster playing at least 10 minutes, Prohm said he was happy to get the win and get some experience for the younger players.
“I’m glad to get the year kicked off,” Prohm said. “I thought we had a good crowd in there for a rainy, cold night. We had a better second half effort on the defensive end – still not anywhere where we need to be – but it’s early. We got a chance to play a lot of guys. Eleven guys played double figure minutes, and we won. I never get to the point where I undervalue winning.”
The games will count starting tonight, as the Racers take on Brescia at 7:30 p.m. at The CFSB Center. While Prohm said he doesn’t want to overlook Brescia, he is well aware of the tall task that awaits the Racers in the following Charleston Classic game against Auburn.
“Once we finish that game Friday night, the level of competition for our guys is going to be very, very good,” Prohm said. … “There are no easy games over there and they’re all high level teams who are going to compete for championships, but sometimes you don’t know what you really have until you get in that environment.”
The Racers, freshmen and all, will soon find out how they stack up against top conference programs when they play SEC opponent Auburn, Nov. 15 in Charleston.
Story by Jonathan Ferris, Sports Editor.