The most successful senior class in program history wasn’t able to write a story book ending on senior night, Saturday, against Southeast Missouri. As Racer fans said goodbye to Isaiah Canaan, Ed Daniel and four other seniors, they watched Murray State fall for the fourth and final time at home this season, dropping the contest 84-68.
The Racer defense faltered as SEMO put on a spectacular show from the 3-point line, making 12 of their 19 attempts. Junior guard A.J. Jones put on the performance of a lifetime, making every shot he attempted en route to 20 points and six rebounds.
“You’ve got to be able to defend to win at a high, high level,” Head Coach Steve Prohm said. “Offense can carry you so far, but defense is what makes up great teams and we’ve got it in us, we’ve just got to be locked in on the defensive end.”
Canaan entered the game with a chance to become the sixth Racer to join the 2,000 career point club. Hoping to achieve the milestone in front of his family and the packed senior night crowd, Canaan scored 22 points, falling one point short of 2,000. Canaan will likely score his 2,000th career point Friday in the semi-final game of the OVC Tournament.
After the game, Prohm expressed his disappointment for the seniors.
“I hate it for our six seniors,” Prohm said. “The season is not over by any stretch, but just for their last home game to end like this because of what they mean to me and what they mean to this program.”
In an inspiring show of sportsmanship, Canaan gave up his starting spot on senior night to four year walk on Jordan Burge. With his teammates smiling and cheering him on, Burge made his first career start, playing the first three minutes of the game. He failed to score his first career points, but did share a special embrace with Canaan at center court as he came off to a standing ovation.
The Racers now head to Nashville to play in the OVC Tournament. They will look to extend their season and advance to the championship game Friday against Eastern Kentucky, SEMO or Eastern Illinois. Needing to win both games to advance to the NCAA Tournament, Prohm said he will have his team ready despite two consecutive losses.
“I told (the players) in (the locker room) there’s a new beginning when we walk out of this room,” Prohm said. “Outside of last year, for every year I can remember you had to go down and win two games in Nashville anyways, so that needs to be our focus and we’ll be as ready and prepared as we can be come Friday. I can promise you that.”
As a regular season full of ups and downs finally comes to a close, Prohm promised fans and his players they would do everything they could to get back to the NCAA Tournament for a second straight season.
“This loss tonight doesn’t define our team,” Prohm said, “It doesn’t define myself, my staff, this senior class. I’ve said all year we’ll be heard from again and I promise you that and I promised those guys in there that.”
Story by Jonathan Ferris, Staff writer.