Racers clinch regular-season OVC championship title

The Racers faced a fresh challenge Saturday night as they took on the Southeast  Missouri State Redhawks at the Show-Me Center in Cape Girardeau, Mo. Despite the Racers’ 20-0 win streak, the Redhawks weren’t willing to lay down without a fight. Murray State was playing in pursuit of a win that would clinch the OVC regular-season championship title while the Redhawks were playing in pursuit of breaking the second-longest win streak in the nation.

Lead changes were the theme of the first half as each team battled for dominance. When the teams last faced off at the CFSB Center on Feb. 5, the Racers came out with the win by just 10 points, 82-72.

At the half, the Racers were in a position they hadn’t seen in a while. The Redhawks had the upper-hand, leading 43-39. The Racers were one-for-nine from 3-point range and 15-for-29 on field goals. The Redhawks shot three-for-10 and 18-for-32 in the first half, respectively.

The majority of the second half brought no better results to the Racers as they failed to take the lead for the duration of the half. They tied the game at 46 points with 16:34 to play, but SEMO’s senior forward Nino Johnson took the lead back for the Redhawks with a free throw that the Racers were unable to match.

Sophomore point guard Cameron Payne fouled out with 3:15 left to play, leaving his teammates to work in the final minutes of the game. Senior guard T.J. Sapp did just that, tying the score at 78 with under two minutes to play. The Racers were unable to capitalize and take the lead until with two seconds left, Sapp shot a 3-pointer and took the foul. He headed to the line and made all three free throws, heading into overtime at the Show-Me Center.

SEMO won the tip, but the Racers put the first four points of extra time on the board, taking an 89-85 lead with just over three minutes to play. SEMO’s Johnson put the Redhawks’ first points on the board in overtime with a free throw shortly followed by a layup.

With 44 seconds to play, senior forward Jonathan Fairell fouled out and the Redhawks made both free throws, taking the lead 92-91. Junior forward Tyler Rambo, in for senior forward Jarvis Williams who fouled out, drew a foul and made both of his free throws as well, taking the lead by one.

Junior forward Wayne Langston came out with a huge steal before Sapp took it downcourt and drew a foul on the Redhawks, going one-for-two with 15 seconds to play. They held onto the lead as Sapp pulled a rebound down on defense. The Racers took their 21st straight win 94-92, clinching an OVC regular-season championship title.

Story by Mallory Tucker