Men’s basketball kicked off the 2014-15 season at home Nov. 6 with an exhibition game against Freed-Hardeman University. The Racers beat the Lions 74-42, working out some of their pre-season kinks as the game progressed.
Head Coach Steve Prohm was pleased with the team’s early performance and the crowd’s turnout.
“It’s good to kick off the new year,” Prohm said. “I thought we had a good atmosphere for exhibition game. I thought our students turned out really well – I’ve been tweeting with them all day – so really appreciative of those guys coming out. Lower bowl was filled, so I thought that was good.”
Despite a packed house, the Racers were slow to start the exhibition. With barely seven minutes left in the first half, Freed-Hardeman led Murray State 21-15 before the Racers kicked it into gear.
Sophomore guard Justin Seymour started off an unmatched 13-point scoring run as the Racers took the lead and finished the half leading 38-23.
“Well, I guess you could say that first game jitters put that into play,” said senior guard T.J. Sapp of the Racers’ slow start. “We all was anxious to get ready to get playing. Took a lot of quick and early shots when we should have probably went more inside out, get it, you know the flow going starting in close and then moving it out. But you know, after a while, we ended up starting to play some Racer basketball. It was still kind of a work in progress, but you know, first game. We’ll get it going all right.”
Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson, Tenn., is an NAIA school, and senior forward Jarvis Williams believed his team might have played down to the level of its competition.
“Not to take anything away from that team, but you know, what we go through in practice and everything, our defensive energy should have been at a higher level,” Williams said. “We just need to come out with that same intensity as we would in practice. It’s a part of first game jitters. We got the flow going and we picked it up.”
The Racers picked it up in the second half as they built a strong lead, helped by dunks from multiple players.
Now, Prohm and the players are learning from the exhibition and looking forward to getting their legs back under them as they prepare for their game against the University of Houston tonight at 7 p.m. at the CFSB Center.
“To be honest right now, we look a little banged up,” Prohm said. “We look a little beat up, we looked a little tired at times tonight. We’ve got to get our legs back, we’ve got to get our spark back, and keep getting better. We’ve got a ways to go. We’re not where we need to be. This reminds me of our team last year at this time, just early. But it’s good to get this behind us, and now it’s on. They all count, and we better be ready, cause it’s coming quick. And we’ve got a good opponent – great opponent – and a tremendous coach coming in here.”
In addition to getting healthy, the team has been focusing on its defense this week during practice. Prohm said he thinks his team will be able to score, but it must focus on the defensive end of the game in order to take the next step toward success.
Houston boasts a high-major basketball program and a successful first-year head coach in Kelvin Sampson. As they travel to mid-major Murray State, the Racers aren’t as worried about playing a high-profile opponent as they are about playing to the best of their abilities.
“We don’t get into all that,” Williams said. “We’re going to be ready for whatever. We’re just going to have to come out and not start off slow. We got the first game out of the way, even though it’s an exhibition, but we’re used to the crowd. Now we’ve got everybody where we need to be.”
Story by Mallory Tucker, Sports Editor