The Racers played Southeast Missouri Saturday, and while their defense was strong it was not enough to prevent a three-point loss.
“I think we had to play together as a team,” senior guard Mariah Robinson said. “We certainly have to rebound and contest shots and give them to people who aren’t shooters. When they’re wide open they’re going to make shots.”
The Redhawks were aggressive coming out of the gate with a tight half court press. Offensive rebounding and a steal by Robinson gave the Racers opportunity to convert. Murray State started out cold in shooting, leaving the first half shooting for 37 percent.
A well-executed zone defense by SEMO forced the Racers convert off fouls and to shoot beyond the arc. Robinson saved Murray State from an even deeper deficit with a successful and-one conversion and a 3-point shot from the corner pocket.
“Defensively, we’re not as locked in as we were a few weeks ago,” Head Coach Rob Cross said. “I don’t think we’re playing defense as good as they were. Today, Southeast Missouri stepped up and took shots. We forced them to 18 turnovers and got several uncontested jump shots.”
Before the Redhawks could run with an almost double-digit lead, gained early in the half, junior forward Jessica Winfrey redeemed the Racers with two jumpers to cut the lead to one. However, SEMO reacted just as quick to the change in offensive energy for the Racers, earning back a 12-point lead sealed with a jumper made by Southeast Missouri.
What would have been a tie at halftime was broken by a final shot by freshman forward Kelsey Dirks. The Racers left the court with their first lead of the game up by two.
Starting with possession in the second half, the Racers hit the ground running with a quick layup by Watson. The Redhawks matched the energy, catching up and re-establishing the lead. The tempo was kept at a quick pace, with the Racers frantic to convert close to the net.
A deep two-point shot by SEMO guard Olivia Hackmann put the Redhawks up by five with 13 minutes left to catch up for the Racers. Elkins faced foul trouble and was benched with three, with Watson following close by at two.
The Redhawks slowly but surely lost control of the lead when it was chipped to four with five minutes left. A steal and layup by Elkins ignited the Murray State defense to snatch balls, but shots did not fall through for a Murray State team shooting for 34 percent.
Down by three with one minute left of play, the Racers were put at the line with Jessica Winfrey after a fifth foul by Mack. A failed conversion put the Redhawks in possession, the Racers desperate for a miracle play.
A missed 3-point shot by sophomore guard Keiona Kirby sealed the win for Southeast Missouri, with a final score of 58-61.
“We need to move on from this and refocus,” Cross said. “We need to get ready for our new season.”
The Racers will tip off next in Nashville, Tenn., for the OVC conference. Seeding and time of the game is still undetermined.
Story by Carly Besser, Assistant Sports Editor.