Women’s basketball junior guard Erica Burgess and forward senior Kyra Watson were suspended from team activities for one and a half weeks of practice and two games as of Jan. 5.
The suspension was held on grounds of what Head Coach Rob Cross said was an issue of conduct that was detrimental to the team.
Burgess and Watson were not allowed to play in the Racers’ last game against UT Martin on Jan. 5, where Murray State clenched their first conference victory after dropping the conference play opener to EKU on Dec. 31.
Though Burgess is an offensive presence for the Racers, playing 373 minutes and shooting over 70 percent from the free throw line, Cross said the suspension was necessary to keep the team moving forward during conference play.
“There’s no question about that (changing our offense), but it was something that was necessary for the team to be successful,” Cross said. “Since then we won a couple of tough road games. Right after the suspension, we went down to UT Martin and beat Martin in their own place, something we haven’t done since 2010. I feel like in the long run it’s really helped our team. I feel like it helped our team for a short burst and it’s going to help for the rest of the season.”
In Burgess and Watson’s second missed game against Southeast Missouri, the Racers lost 70-58 to the Redhawks. Both players are now permitted to return to the court and have been eligible to play in the last two games against Austin Peay on Jan. 12 and Belmont on Jan. 14, which ended with a win and loss, respectively.
Against Austin Peay, Burgess played for a total of two minutes and finished with one assist and a foul. Watson saw no playing time.
Cross said both players will see more playing time once they get back in shape from missing over a week of practice.
“I’m very happy to have them back,” he said. “We’re looking for them to work their way back. They missed a week and half of practice. We didn’t allow them around the team at that time, so they’ll work their way back into the rotation once they get in the flow of things at practice.”
With games against SIU Edwardsville Jan. 19, Eastern Illinois Jan. 21 and Jacksonville State Jan. 26, all the Racers will need to be in shape and prepared for the challenging stack of opponents.
Cross said just missing one week, especially during a physically demanding play schedule, can make a tremendous difference in performance.
“If it’s me, I’m in the gym but it’s not the same,” he said. “You’re not in practice. You have to re-learn some things, and for some people, just being in the rhythm definitely affects us.”
Drawing closer to the OVC tournament and going into a challenging final half of the basketball season, Burgess and Watson are faced with earning their impactful positions back on the Racer team by stepping up in practice and readjusting to a no-nonsense program.
The Racers’ next game will be against conference opponent SIU Edwardsville on Jan. 19 at 5 p.m. at the CFSB Center.
Story by Carly Besser, Staff writer