The No. 8 seed Murray State basketball team ended its tournament journey early in a 62-51 loss against Eastern Kentucky Wednesday night.
Led by senior guard Mariah Robinson with 23 points and 11 rebounds, the Racers put up a strong fight in the first half.
“They’re a solid defensive team,” Head Coach Rob Cross said. “They were getting a lot of layups. We could have changed the completion of the game.”
A deep three by Eastern Kentucky guard Marie Carpenter began the quick tempo style of play. Robinson retaliated with her signature shot beyond the arc, along with a layup in the paint.
From there, the Racers dictated the majority of the first half, snatching offensive rebounds and pushing ahead of the Colonels, who were forced to convert early in the game. Freshman forward Kelsey Dirks’ 6-foot-3-inch frame was a key component in Murray State’s defense, grabbing rebounds and scoring two second-chance points.
desperate to stop a strong run, the Colonels put the Racers at the line, where they shot 80 percent. Before the Racers could run with the lead, the shooting drive went cold, giving Eastern Kentucky the opportunity to inch its way to a one-point lead with three minutes left. Murray State was 23 percent from the field by the buzzer.
“Earlier in the game, we were doing a good job rebounding.” Cross said. “They ended up rebounding us by six, and that was one of our keys.”
After keeping the Racers out of the paint for the final five minutes, Murray State left for the locker room, down by four. Despite the deficit, Robinson was only three rebounds short of a double-double and had 11 points.
With the second half starting with Eastern Kentucky in possession, it was a footrace to both sides of the court. Scoring remained stagnant as both teams turned over the ball in a rush-style offense.
The Racers were revitalized after a pair of free throws were made by Dirks, ending a second-half scoring drought. Robinson followed suit with another 3-point shot, tying the game up against an Eastern Kentucky team, that was originally leading by as much as seven.
A tightly-locked zone defense executed by the Racers stopped the Colonels in their tracks, giving them time to regain an advantage. Eastern Kentucky kept an edge in steals, putting them in possession twice as often.
Down by six with just 3:30 left in the game, the Racers hustled to convert, making faulty passes and poor shot selection.
Both teams were in the bonus, with Murray State trying to grasp points behind the line. The Colonels were not fazed by the frantic pace, but instead extended its lead to double digits in the final minute of play.
The game, and season for the Racers ended in a loss by 11.
“We stuck in, and we played hard,” Robinson said. “I’m very proud of the team.”
Story by Carly Besser, Assistant Sports Editor.