(WITH VIDEO) – Fans were stacked to the aisle in the CFSB Center as the Racers prepared to play at home for the last time this season.
The pre-game festivities celebrated the three seniors: Jarvis Williams, Jonathan Fairell and T.J. Sapp, but all eyes were on Head Coach Steve Prohm as he took his 100th program win.
“I’ve coached a lot of really good players,” Prohm said. “I had a really good mentor in Coach Kennedy, guys that put me in a position to be successful and I’ve been blessed a whole bunch in this business. I’ve got a great staff, I’ve been fortunate to coach very, very good point guards, very good wings, very good bigs. And everybody plays a part of it.”
A 65-57 victory over Eastern Illinois University made Prohm the fastest coach in Racer history to claim 100 wins and take home his 23rd consecutive win this season. This 23-game win streak, in addition to being the second-longest in the nation after No. 1 University of Kentucky, ties for the longest streak in OVC history, a record already held by the Racers from the 2011-12 season.
The normal starters, all three seniors plus sophomore point guard Cameron Payne and junior forward Jeffery Moss, took to the court and won the tip against the Panthers. Williams put the first points of the game on the board on a goal-tending call against Eastern Illinois.
Sapp followed with a 3-pointer and Moss quickly followed with one of his own to increase the lead to 8-0 with 16:44 to play in the first half. Williams added a dunk to the score before being fouled on a second dunk attempt. He made both free throws and the Racers went up by 12 uncontested for the first five minutes of the game.
Fairell took the first personal foul for the Racers and Eastern Illinois’ junior guard Trae Anderson made both free throws, putting the Panthers’ first points of the game on the board.
Eastern Illinois’ Anderson, senior forward Josh Piper and junior forward Chris Olivier, who returned from an injury Feb. 14, led the Panther’s offense with 18 of the Panthers’ 21 points in the first half.
The Racers entered the locker room at the half leading Eastern Illinois 34-21.
The Panthers were chomping at the bit in the second half to cut the lead and challenge the Racers.
They closed the gap to less than 10 just three minutes in and maintained a close margin for most of the half. With 49 seconds to play, Fairell was subbed out with three personal fouls to his name.
Less than 30 seconds elapsed before he was subbed back in for Williams to be honored for senior night.
“I’m thankful,” Williams said. “I really am thankful for everybody. My brothers, fans and just Murray State in general, man. I’m just appreciative, and that sums it up really. There’s really not much I can say that expresses how I really feel.”
However, he was quickly subbed back out by junior forward Wayne Langston, acknowledging the crowd as he took in his last minutes on the floor of the CFSB Center. The crowd cheered “Thank you, seniors,” as the clock timed out and the Racers won 65-57. The Racers are now just one game away from a perfect conference season.
Facing the UT Martin Skyhawks at 6 p.m. Saturday in Martin, Tenn., the Racers have a chance to become the fourth team in OVC history to go undefeated in conference.
Even with records looming, tied and passed, Prohm and the team take each day as it’s own and continue to look at each game with a 0-0 record.
“It’s a great night, but tomorrow’s a new day and we’ve got to move forward,” Prohm said. “But I’m really happy for our seniors. Last year we couldn’t do a transition drill. And for them to now tie the school record and league record for consecutive wins and then to put them in a position to be one of only five teams to go undefeated in the conference? It’s going to take a heck of an effort Saturday because I’m sure Martin is going to be locked and loaded and ready to roll for that. But that’s how it should be. That’s college basketball.”
Story by Mallory Tucker, Sports Editor