An inexperienced men’s basketball team came up short on the road Friday night with a 77-74 loss to Valparaiso, but rebounded Tuesday at home with a 97-69 win over Brescia to move to 1-1 in its first week of play.
The Racers have proven their ability to score the basketball, averaging more than 85 points through the first two games.
It is the defense, however, that has Head Coach Steve Prohm concerned.
“I’m not really worried about us on the offensive end of the floor,” Prohm said. “I think we’ve shown the capability to score the basketball. The biggest thing I’m talking to them about is how we’ve got to get better on the defensive end.”
The team’s inexperience showed in the loss to Valparaiso Friday night. Trailing by as many as 12 in the second half, the Racers stormed back and found themselves down by two points with 2:46 to play.
During the final minutes of the game, however, Murray State missed several free throws, leading to a 77-74 defeat.
Prohm attributed the missed free throws to inexperience – a problem junior forward Jarvis Williams said will fade as the team plays more games together.
“We’ve been together all summer, but experience comes from playing against other people,” Williams said. “We come together more than when we’re playing against each other. When we get the chance to play another team, it just makes us come together and have fun.”
The Racers suffered another big blow over the weekend as sophomore forward Zay Henderson broke his hand during a drill in practice, sidelining him for four to six weeks.
With Zay Jackson’s injury and departure from the program and the ineligibility of guards Justin Seymour and T.J. Sapp, Henderson’s injury leaves the Racers with only eight out of the possible 13 players on scholarship.
“When you only have eight scholarship guys,” Prohm said, “there are depth and foul trouble concerns, but nothing will change. We have to play the same way with the same intensity and our goal each game is to win.”
With the Racers shorthanded until December when Henderson is expected to return from injury and Sapp’s period of ineligibility ends, several new faces have been forced into action.
Williams has had an impact in the paint. Williams leads all forwards, averaging a double-double with 12.5 points and 10.5 rebounds through the first two games.
Sophomore guard Tyler Rambo has been the Racers’ top producer off the bench.
Rambo set a career high with 12 points against Valparaiso, and added another seven against Brescia, giving him an average of 9.5 per game.
“(Rambo) can defend and rebound,” Prohm said. “He can get to the free throw line and he’s been good in our games so far. He could easily be a starter at the three or the four for us.”
After defeating NAIA Brescia 97-69, the Racers now turn their sights back to Division I as they make a road trip to Norfolk, Va., to take on Old Dominion.
The Racers and Monarchs met last season at the CFSB Center, where Murray State pulled out a 79-72 victory. Old Dominion struggled through most of the year, however, finishing with a 5-25 record.
“Old Dominion has always been known for dominating people on the glass,” Prohm said. “I’m sure they still have that same mindset and they have some size, so we’ve got to do a lot better job than we did at (Valparaiso).”
The Racers look to move to 2-1 on the season at 6 p.m. tonight.
Story by Jonathan Ferris, Staff writer