When Murray State and Southern Illinois University Edwardsville met nearly a month ago, the Racers were cruising through the OVC. Unfortunately for Head Coach Steve Prohm’s team, the Cougars earned a tough 67-60 victory – throwing a wrench into the Racers’ perfect 5-0 conference record.
Prohm’s team took advantage of a chance for revenge Thursday night, however, as the Racers earned their second consecutive victory with an 82-72 win over the Cougars.
The storylines from the Jan. 16 game were SIUE forward Rozell Nunn’s 20 points and the Cougars’ 50 percent 3-point shooting percentage. Prohm’s team reversed those trends Thursday night, however, limiting the Cougars to 38 percent shooting from long range, and holding Nunn to 10 points.
“We just stayed in front of them and made them work for their shots,” sophomore guard Jeffery Moss said. “Last game we weren’t really being our normal selves, but tonight we pushed up on them more and made it more difficult on them.”
It wasn’t all smooth sailing for the Racers, however, as SIUE kicked off the game with three consecutive 3-pointers.
With his team trailing early 12-6, Prohm called a timeout to regroup his players.
“It was definitely a wakeup call,” Moss said. “All of us came out kind of sluggish – we weren’t really moving too fast on defense. After the first timeout we knew we had to pick it up and that’s what we did.”
The Racers took over the game after the early timeout, immediately going on a quick 13-1 run. Murray State took an 11 point lead into halftime and never looked back.
SIUE only got as close as nine in the second half as the Racers established a dominant presence in the post. Murray State won the rebounding battle 39-30 and outscored SIUE in the paint 48-30.
Murray State’s 82-point performance against the Cougars continued the Racers’ recent high-scoring trend.
Murray State has scored more than 80 points in four of the last six games, and the Racers currently rank as the conference’s top-scoring team.
Prohm said he cautioned his team, however, to not lose focus on the defensive side of the ball.
“We’ve proven we can score,” Prohm said. “We want to be great offensively, but you’ve always got to play defense.”
The Racers’ victory moves them to 15-9 on the season and 10-2 in OVC play – good for a four-game lead in the OVC West and the second overall spot in the conference.
With four games left on the regular season schedule, a victory Saturday against Eastern Illinois would clinch the OVC West title and an automatic two-round bye into the semifinals of the OVC Tournament.
Prohm said he isn’t too concerned with the standings at this point.
“The (OVC) West will play itself out,” Prohm said. “We’ve got four games left. We need to win all four and see where that puts us at the end.”
Since the teams’ last meeting, Eastern Illinois has gone 4-4 and sits in third place in the OVC West.
After playing Eastern Illinois, the Racers turn their sights to the final home game of the season Feb. 22 against Morehead State.
The next-to-last home game of the 2013-14 season tips off Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
Story by Jonathan Ferris, Staff writer