Streak ends at Xavier

Jenny Rohl/The News Point guard Cam Payne looks to score in the win over Evansville Wednesday.

After suffering their first losses of the season, women’s basketball bounced back with three consecutive wins before suffering a 70-66 loss to Xavier Wednesday night.

Going 3-1 over the past few weeks, Head Coach Rob Cross said he is proud of the strides his team has made a month into the season.

“We have been taking care of the basketball more and we have had (turnovers) below double digits,” Cross said. “We have responded well to what the other team does and the adjustments they are making.”

The Racers saw their three game winning streak come to an end at Big East opponent Xavier. The first half saw Murray State and Xavier trade baskets with neither team gaining a two-possession advantage.

In the second half, Xavier gained a six-point lead, but Murray State rallied back with the 3-point shot, to go on a 10-4 run to grab a 51-50 lead with 11 minutes remaining.

After a pair of free throws by sophomore forward Jashae Lee cut the Racers’ deficit to two points, the Musketeers put together an 8-3 run to put the game out of reach.

Cross made three changes to the starting lineup after the team’s 1-2 start, and they were evident on the court. Along with the new starting lineup, strong second half performances gave the Racers their winning streak.

“I’m thrilled with the way the team responded from the Wright State game,” Cross said.

The Racers began their winning streak against Saint Louis and led the whole game as three players scored 17 points. Junior guard Keiona Kirby scored Murray State’s first eight points, making two 3’s in the game’s opening minutes. Off the bench, freshman guard Taylor Porter scored 10 points in the opening half to lead Murray State to a six-point lead at halftime.

The Racers made adjustments to put the game away early in the second half. Sophomore Bianca Babic led the way, scoring 15 of her 17 points in the second half.

“(Babic) is always going to get a shot up,” Cross said. “If we are stagnant on offense, I know I can put her in and we will get shots because she is very confident.”

Coming out of the locker room, the Racers used a 9-0 run to push their lead to double digits and didn’t look back in the 83-64 victory over the Billikens.

Murray State hosted Kennesaw State three days later and fell behind early.

“I don’t know what was going through our minds at first,” Kirby said. “We came out on defense too relaxed and were giving them easy buckets.”

The Owls led by 11 points midway through the first half, but the Racers erased the lead with a 13-4 run.

Once again, it was Porter leading the team, as she scored nine of her 14 points in the opening half.

The Racers gained their first lead midway through the second half using a tough defense that forced eight turnovers.

It was a 15-4 run that put the game away for Murray State. Kirby caught fire and put the Racers ahead on a fast break layup with nine minutes remaining and scored 16 of her game-high 22 points in the final frame.

Kirby’s confidence and hot shooting continued at Lipscomb Saturday. Kirby scored a career-high 29 points in the win over the Lady Bison as the Racers held on for the victory.

The Racers jumped out to a 16-point lead late in the first half but saw it disappear midway through the second half.

With momentum against the Racers, freshman guard Nikia Edom drained a 3-pointer that regained the lead for Murray State and didn’t allow Lipscomb to come back.

The shot sparked a 10-2 run that led to the 86-79 win.

“We got off to a great start and got to see how our team would respond,” Cross said. “I think once again our team got stronger and showed how to close out games like we need to.”

 

Story by Tom Via, Staff writer