MEASURING UP – Men prepare for tough schedule

 Ryan?Richardson/The News Freshman point guard Cameron Payne directs his teammates on the floor in the win Tuesday over Bethel.

Jenny Rohl/The News
Freshman point guard Cameron Payne directs his teammates on the floor in the win Tuesday over Bethel.

After four games and a 2-2 record, the Racers’ schedule is about to heat up as the men’s basketball team takes its next step in the 2013-14 season.

“Now it’s on,” said Head Coach Steve Prohm after Tuesday night’s victory over Bethel. “There are really no easy games the rest of the way in the nonconference portion.”

In the Racers’ second and final game of the season against a non-Division I opponent, the Bethel Wildcats came up from the NAIA ranks Tuesday night to face the Racers at the CFSB Center.

Murray State quickly stormed out to a 14-2 lead and never looked back on their way to a 91-64 victory, the team’s second of the season.

“These games are tough to really get a true measure,” Prohm said. “In these games you just want to see your kids play hard, play unselfish, play with great energy and move on to the next game, really. I was happy with a lot of the performances.”

Some of the impressive performances included big nights from junior forward Jarvis Williams and senior guard Dexter Fields.

Williams had the best game of his short Murray State career, earning his third consecutive double-double with 25 points and 13 rebounds.

Fields also had an impressive night, scoring a career-high 21 points.

“It’s great to see these guys play with more urgency,” Fields said. “This is a group of guys that’s willing to listen and take what people tell them and go apply it on the court. This is a good step for us going into Saturday’s game.”

As Prohm said, the schedule only gets tougher from here. The Racers have not yet defeated a D-I opponent, losing on the road to Valparaiso to start the season and at Old Dominion Nov. 15.

“When looking at the scheduling at the beginning of the year, I was hoping to be 3-1 right now,” Prohm said. “I was hoping to get a split on that road trip between Old Dominion and (Valparaiso), but we just couldn’t do that.”

Murray State will head out on the road again Saturday night as the Racers try to stop the trend against the Auburn Tigers of the Southeastern Conference.

The Racers and Tigers met last season in Charleston, S.C., in the opening round of the Charleston Classic. Murray State went on to dominate the game, leading by as many as 31 before rolling to a 79-59 victory.

After embarrassing Auburn on a national stage last season, the Racers know the Tigers will not lack motivation heading into Saturday night.

“Coach Prohm told us they’re going to be coming hard at us because they’ve got something to prove,” Williams said. “But we’ve got something to prove too.”

Murray State and Auburn’s rosters have seen dramatic changes since the two teams played just more than 11 months ago.

Both teams saw five seniors graduate after the end of last season. With several underclassmen expected to see action Saturday night, Prohm said he expects a much different matchup than the one in 2012.

“They lost a couple key players, we lost five seniors, so it’s two different teams,” Prohm said. “They’re a better basketball team right now. They’ll be more than ready for us. Anytime you go on the road in the SEC, whether it’s Auburn or Kentucky or Tennessee, you’re going to have to play extremely well to win.”

After facing Auburn, the Racers will have a quick turn around to prepare for another tough week as Middle Tennessee State comes to the CFSB Center Tuesday night.

The Racers then take their longest scheduled road trip of the season to Moraga, Calif., to take on the St. Mary’s Gaels Nov. 30 in the return game of an early 2012 Bracket Busters matchup at the CFSB Center.

As the Racers work their way through the tough nonconference schedule in anticipation for the start of OVC play in January, Prohm said he is still trying to get familiar and comfortable with his team.

“We have a long way to go, but that’s a good thing,” Prohm said. “We’ve got to get to seven guys who can help us win night in and night out. Right now, we’re in the process of figuring out who those seven guys are going to be.”

Murray State and Auburn tip off at 7 p.m. Saturday.

 

Story by Jonathan Ferris, Staff writer