The air in the CFSB Center was laced with electricity as fans cheered on the Racers to battle OVC rival Belmont University, with rowdy student section packing the seats for the first home men’s basketball game since Winter Break.
“We had a great atmosphere tonight,” senior forward Jonathan Fairell said. “A lot of students, a lot of fans came out to support us. And I give credit to the fans, cause you know, without them, we wouldn’t have the momentum we have in the game – or knocking out big shots. Because we feed off their energy, too.”
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 Fairell quickly put a bucket on the scoreboard.
A strong defensive effort by Fairell caused a turnover on Belmont and sophomore point guard Cameron Payne put the Racers up 4-2 less than four minutes into the first half. Belmont returned the score, sinking a three-pointer to make it 5-4.
The Racers returned to the floor after the first time out with a renewed sense of drive 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.
The fans were deafening as the Racers took a seven-point lead and dominated on defense. Sapp made two free throws followed by Williams’ jam that solidified a 12-0 run for Murray State. But Belmont snapped out of their dry spell with a bucket before the second media timeout of the half.
A foul by Fairell allowed the Bruins to put in a layup and 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.
A loose pass from freshman guard Kedrick Flomo allowed Belmont to score two more points, but the Racers put up five unreturned. However, 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 easy points with free-throws, making the score 88-66 with just under five minutes to play.
“I’m really impressed with Murray State’s basketball team,” said Belmont Head Coach Rick Byrd. “As we scouted them, and certainly was even more impressed, personally, with them. They’re a pretty complete team.”
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.
“We haven’t talked about the streak,” said Head Coach Steve Prohm. “You know, the funny thing about when I told them ‘1-0’ before the day – I said, ‘That’s our goal man. Let’s just go 1-0.’ We’ve got to beat Tennessee State to get to where we want to go to.”
The Racers face Tennessee State University Saturday at 7 p.m. at the CFSB Center.
Story by Mallory Tucker, Sports Editor