It was a fairytale season with a nightmare of an ending; an ending that was all too familiar for the Murray State Racers as they lost on a buzzer-beater three from Old Dominion University March 24 during the quarterfinal game of the National Invitation Tournament at the Ted Constant Convocation Center in Norfolk, Va.
After junior forward Jeffery Moss hit a 3-pointer to tie it up with just nine seconds left on the clock, overtime looked hopeful for the Racers. The sellout crowd in the Convocation Center fell into silence before junior guard Trey Freeman shocked not just the fans, but the nation with a deep 3 to put the Monarchs up 72-69.
“I’m extremely hurt for my guys,” said Head Coach Steve Prohm. “We’re 27 and two in our last 29 games, and both our games we’ve lost on a fadeaway 3 and a bank 3-pointer. God’s blessed this team abundantly.”
Down by 10 points with 3:39 to play, the Racers stepped it up in the final minutes of the game in hopes of ending their season in New York, but instead Old Dominion was able to finish out a perfect home season with their 20th consecutive home win. Murray State was off in every aspect of their game during the matchup, shooting just 37.7 percent from the field and 23.8 from behind the arc.
“When you come on the road, you’ve got to go 28 for 35, or 30 for 35,” Prohm said. “I don’t think we took many deep, contested threes. We probably took a couple. I bet 16 of those misses, I bet half of them were probably pretty good looks.”
Prohm said the players on this team know what it means to play for the Murray State program now. As the third winningest team in Murray State’s history, holding the second-longest winning streak in the country this season in addition to the longest winning streak in both the program and the conference’s history, the most road wins in the country and one of only five teams in the OVC’s history to run the table and go undefeated, the 2014-15 Racers are not soon to be forgotten. “To me, I really haven’t just thought about everything and just let it all come to me yet,” said senior forward Jarvis Williams. “I’ve just been focusing on trying to play the next game and just trying to prolong my senior season as much as I can. But now I’ll be able to reflect on it. Just growing with my brothers was the most important thing to me.”
The other two seniors, forward Jonathan Fairell and guard T.J. Sapp, ended the season in much different positions than where they began it. With just two losses since November, one to Belmont and one to Old Dominion, they provided the leadership that returning players will remember as they continue their careers at Murray State. Prohm said he is excited to see where the three men go.
Despite a loss and despite the statistics, the Racers have made an impact on the nation, breaking records of past Racer teams and setting the standard for teams to come. With various high-major coaches tweeting at Prohm about setting up games for next season including former Murray State coach and current University of Cincinnati Head Coach Mick Cronin, the coaching staff and remaining players are looking ahead and continuing their battle for respect.
“Until people come watch us play, I don’t know how you get the respect of the naysayers,” Prohm said. “But if anybody wants to come to Murray and play us, we’ll play them. See if those teams will come. I think there’s no question. People know we’re legit.”
Story by Mallory Tucker