A battle between the East and West division came to a close Monday when the Racers (15-8, 7-4 OVC) fell to Tennessee State to end a 6 game winning streak.
Led by freshman guard Erika Sisk with 29 points, five rebounds and three assists, the Racers relied heavily on freshman talent to pull through but fell short to an offensively prepared TSU squad.
“Rebounding is key for everything,” Sisk said. “We just have to knock down more of those shots and make those drives and we’ll be okay for the rest of the game. We have to keep our heads up and we’ll be okay.”
Tennessee State seemingly took control of the first half, with the Racers forced to pull out of an early 7 point deficit. The Tigers outshot Murray State by nearly double, putting them in a tight spot to convert before the lead extended too far.
“I didn’t think we came out with enough energy from the beginning of the game,” Head Coach Rob Cross said. “I felt like we let them dictate energy level and that was a problem in our gym. They made plays when they needed to make plays and we made some critical errors down the stretch.”
Faulty passing and shot selection hindered both teams in the first half, putting Murray State in a in an incentive to draw fouls in the paint with an and-one by junior guard Erica Burgess to put the Racers in the lead for the first time in the game at the 13:35 mark.
Sisk carried the team by tacking on 16 points and being one of four Racers to put points on the board.
“Sisk is staying on the court until the end of the game,” Cross said. “I felt bad for her because she played her heart out and played very well. I thought she had a really nice game. We’ve just got to give her more help.”
The Tigers kept a consistent, triple-coverage press on Robinson, holding her at a 0-5 shooting slump in the first half.
Returning from the locker room with a two-point lead, the Racers set the tone with another hustle by Sisk to take it to the line and battle of the lead, changing shot for shot between the OVC rivals.
Junior forward Jessica Winfrey broke a two minute tie and became the fifth Racer to score in the game when she scored two free throws to encourage a scoring drive from the rest of the squad. Sophomore guard Keiona Kirby and freshman forward Kelsey Dirks followed suit, sinking two baskets back-to-back putting the score at 37-36 with 13:20 on the clock.
The crowd erupted as Robinson shot her first 3-pointer of the night at the 10:30 mark, putting the racers up 44-41. Within just a minute, the Racers blew out a 7 point lead and continued to build a secure advantage on the scoreboard.
Before they could claim the win after a blowout, the Racers were once again forced to convert after Tennessee State regrouped with guard Kesi Hess and gained a 2 point lead with just 30 seconds left in play. A missed layup by Sisk put the Tigers at the line up by two with a foul by Robinson.
The Racers failed to convert on a missed layup by Sisk, ending the game 67-61 Tennessee State.
Murray State will tip off again Feb. 16 at 4 p.m. against Eastern Illinois.
Story by Carly Besser, Staff writer.