Another chapter was added to one of the longest rivalries in college basketball Sunday, as the Racers faced the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers for the 150th time.
Since their first meeting in 1932, the Hilltoppers have owned the series, winning 95 of 149 games. The Racers have had the advantage lately, however, winning two of the last three matchups.
Similarly to the Racers, Western Kentucky has gotten off to a hot start in 2012-13, entering Sunday with an 8-2 record. The Hilltoppers have experienced injury trouble recently, however, and were without their top scorer, sophomore guard T.J. Price, against Murray State.
The game lived up to its storied history, coming down to the wire after eight lead changes in the second-half alone.
Dexter Fields led the way in the first half, connecting on 3-4 shots and scoring seven points. Fields had struggled prior to Sunday, making only 21 of 54 attempted shots for the season. He was able to find his stroke, however, against Western Kentucky.
“We’ve been waiting on him for that switch to turn and we’re glad he came out and had a good game today,” senior guard Isaiah Canaan said. “He’s been working hard every day in practice and trying to find his role and we knew what he was capable of doing and he came out and played a great game today.”
Fields finished the game 5-8 from the field with 14 points (his highest total since transferring from UAB) and 4 rebounds.
“I thought (Fields) played extremely well,” Head Coach Steve Prohm said. “We really needed that push from him tonight. I’m proud of him.”
Despite a 33-28 Murray State lead at halftime, Western Kentucky showed resiliency, coming back from a six point deficit to take a 47-45 lead with 12:42 left in the game.
It was Canaan, however, who took over the game and pushed the Racers to a 75-70 victory. The senior guard from Biloxi, Miss. put up 16 points in the second half, hitting a deep 3-pointer to give the Racers the lead for good. He finished the day 7-16 from the field and 4-8 from 3-point range, with a team-leading 21 points and five assists.
The Racers now face two tough road games at Arkansas State (6-3) Wednesday and Dayton (8-2) before returning home Dec. 29 to finish their non-conference schedule against Valparaiso.
Story by Jonathan Ferris, Staff writer.