A dominant final 10 minutes allowed the Racers to pull away, securing the quarterfinals victory and leaving Murray State as one of the final four teams remaining in the CIT.
After a back and forth first half, senior guard Dexter Fields ignited the Racer offense.
Not ready to see his Murray State career come to an end, Fields drained two consecutive 3’s midway through the second half to break a tie and give the Racers a six-point lead.
The Racers never looked back. Murray State kicked off a 24-6 run to put the game out of reach and put an end to Towson’s season.
Head Coach Steve Prohm said Fields’ long balls were what pushed his team over the top.
“(The 3-pointers) were big,” Prohm said. “It was kind of nip and tuck – nobody could pull away. Then bam, bam, it was six, and then it was double figures and our guys were having some fun out there. It just snowballed.”
Assuming he’d played his final game in front of home fans more than a month ago, Fields said he is enjoying the opportunity to play some extra games.
“I’m just excited that I’m still playing here in front of these fans,” Fields said. “They’re giving us more energy than we expected and the crowd has been outrageous. The only thing on my mind right now is finishing these two games out strong and leaving as a champion.”
The Tigers’ superior size posed issues for the Racers in the first half. Towson relied on a strong first-half performance from two-time Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Year Jerrelle Benimon. After the first 20 minutes, the Towson senior had torched Murray State for 14 points and five rebounds.
Murray State limited Benimon in the second half, however, allowing him to score only four points in the final 20 minutes.
“When you make shots, when you get stops and when you turn people over, you’re going to look good,” Prohm said. “It was one of our better halves (of the season).”
The Racers relied on a balanced attack, with four players scoring double-digit points. Freshman Cameron Payne led the way with 24 points, seven assists and four rebounds.
Junior Jarvis Williams finished with 18 points and nine rebounds and fellow junior Jonathan Fairell earned a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Fields rounded out the double-digit scorers with 15 points on 5-9 shooting from 3-point range.
The Racers now advance to the semifinal round of the CIT, where they will host Pacific Tuesday night at the CFSB Center.
The Pacific Tigers defeated San Diego 70-65 Monday night to advance to the semifinals. The Tigers boast an 18-15 record – good for an eighth-place finish in the West Coast Conference.
If victorious, Murray State will play the winner of Yale and Virginia Military Institute for the CIT championship Thursday.
Murray State and Pacific tip off Tuesday at 8 p.m. at the CFSB Center.
Story by Jonathan Ferris, Staff writer