(WITH VIDEO) – It was a slow start but a strong finish for the Racers Thursday night at the CFSB Center as they claimed their 18th straight win against the Southeast Missouri State Redhawks 82-72.
The Redhawks won the tip and put the first points on the board, leading for the first nine minutes of the game.
A layup by junior forward Tyler Rambo put the Racers ahead of the Redhawks 16-15, and the lead was quickly added to as senior forward Jarvis Williams slammed for two more. Southeast Missouri battled back and took the lead once again two minutes later.
“I’d say around (win) 15, that’s when we really started to be like, hey man we can do something special,” Williams said of the streak. “As far as like, the 2011-12 team. We don’t really talk about it, but that’s something we’re looking forward to – trying to beat their little record. And just establish our own kind of deal here at Murray State. You always hear about that team in the past, and we’re just trying to put our own stepping stone at Murray.”
The game was tied at three more points during the first half before the Racers were able to pull away and keep a consistent lead. The Racers entered the second half leading 36-31.
The Racers, now nationally ranked 15th in field goal percentage, 18th in assists per game and 19th in points per game, are the only remaining undefeated team in the OVC and hold the second-longest win streak in the country, following only the University of Kentucky. Belmont, the OVC East leaders, are the Racers’ closest conference competitors with two OVC losses.
Southeast Missouri cut the Racers’ lead to just one basket a minute into the second half, but were unable to find the lead as Murray State consistently pulled away. By just ten minutes into the game, two players from each team found themselves in foul trouble.
Southeast Missouri’s senior forward Nino Johnson and sophomore guard both tallied four fouls while Murray State’s junior forward Wayne Langston and senior forward Jonathan Fairell racked up the same. The Redhawks’ freshman forward T.J. Thomas joined his teammates with four fouls just a few minutes later.
Williams took to the line most frequently for the Racers, shooting 14 free throws at 50 percent. Fairell fouled out with just under five minutes left to play, one of his fouls being a technical.
The Redhawks attempted to tighten their defense as the clock wound down, but even with 10 steals to Murray State’s seven and just a six-point deficit with under a minute to play, they couldn’t cut the lead enough to contain the Racers. Sophomore point guard Cameron Payne, the newest member of Murray State’s 1,000-point club, tallied 16 points during the matchup while senior guard T.J. Sapp scored 19 and Williams added 23, many of which came from dunks.
The clock timed out as the Racers stalled, beating Southeast Missouri and extending their win streak to 18, stealing the nation’s attention one game at a time.
The Racers travel to take on the Austin Peay State Governors at 7 p.m. Saturday in Clarksville, Tenn.
“Everybody knows it’s a big time rival game for Murray,” Sapp said of Austin Peay. “We treat them just like anybody else right now. It’s another opponent in our way of our goals and what we planned to do.”
Story by Mallory Tucker, Sports Editor