The air in the CFSB Center was laced with electricity as fans cheered the Racers onto the court to battle OVC rival Belmont University. A rowdy student section brought a fresh sense of excitement as they packed the seats for the first home men’s basketball game since Christmas Break. The starting five took the floor in pursuit of their 12th-straight win and fourth OVC victory of the season.
Senior forward Jarvis Williams won the tip for the Racers and senior forward Jonathan Fairell quickly put a bucket on the scoreboard. Sophomore Evan Bradds returned the favor on Belmont’s possession of the game and the CFSB Center quieted as the score was evened.
A strong defensive effort by Fairell caused a turnover on Belmont and sophomore point guard Cameron Payne put the Racers back up 4-2 less than four minutes into the first half. Once again, Belmont returned the score, sinking a three-pointer to take the lead 5-4. The Racers struggled to find the basket as shots ricocheted off the rim.
The Racers returned to the floor after the first media time out with a renewed sense of urgency as senior guard T.J. Sapp quickly put up a three-pointer. Junior forward Jeffery Moss was quick to follow suit and put the Racers up 10-5.
Payne forced a turnover as Belmont took their next shot at offense and traveled down-court for an easy layup. The fans were deafening as the Racers took a seven-point lead and continued to dominate on defense. Sapp made two free throws followed by Williams’ jam that solidified a 12-0 run for Murray State. Belmont snapped out of their dry spell with a bucket just before the second media timeout of the half.
A foul by Fairell allowed the Bruins to put in a layup as they cut the Racers’ lead to six. A skilled pass from redshirt-sophomore guard Justin Seymour to Payne put two more on the board for the Racers before Payne was called down-court for a foul. Racer fans jeered their disapproval as Belmont took to the free-throw line. Seymour increased the lead back to nine with a three, 25-16.
A loose pass from freshman guard Kedrick Flomo allowed Belmont to put another two points on the board before the Racers put up five unreturned. Moss continued the run with a short bucket and added another point with a free throw. Williams swooshed a basket from the top of the key before Belmont was able to end the streak, making the score 35-23.
The Racers dominated under the rim, winning 22 total rebounds to the 12 that Belmont was able to pull down in the first half. Time ran out with the Racers leading 46-37 at the end of the first half.
Murray State kept up the pace entering the second half as they collected a 19-point lead with 10 minutes to play, shooting 50 percent from the 3-point line. The crowd quieted in a sense of security as the Bruins lost momentum and the Racers continued to build their lead at a leisurely pace.
The Racers took their second 20-point lead of the game as Williams jammed one in before laying another up. Fairell added two more points with free-throws, making the score 88-66 with just under five minutes to play.
The spark in the air of the CFSB Center calmed to a steadily burning coal in the last minutes of the game. The clock timed out and the Racers took their 12th consecutive win comfortably, 92-77 over Belmont. The Racers face Tennessee State University Saturday at 7 p.m. at the CFSB Center.
Story by Mallory Tucker