Story by Mark McFarland, Assistant Sports Editor
The Racers came up just short against Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville 64-61 on Saturday night.
Murray State welcomed home the Cougars for their first home game since being back from Winter Break. The Cougars came into the game with a 6-1 OVC record and on top of the conference. The Racers were looking to add their third conference win.
Sophomore foward Ke’Shunan James has been struggling over the last few games only scoring 23 combined points in the last three games. The Racers started off allowing a basket in the first ten seconds of the game, but never let the Cougars get out to a big lead. The first quarter went back and forth and ended in an 18-18 tie.
The Cougars came out strong in the second quarter out-scoring the Racers 20-8. The Racers trailed at halftime 38-26. Head Coach Rob Cross said the energy in the second quarter was nowhere near to where they needed to be as a team.
“Our energy level completely dropped,” Cross said. “For whatever reason when we get down six or eight points everybody’s heads are hanging.”
The Racers led by James came out of the gate firing on all cylinders. Outscoring the Cougars 15-11 and holding them to 31 percent shooting. Murray State didn’t shoot well in the quarter the team was able to get to the free throw line three times and convert on all three attempts.
The fourth quarter was a back and forth battle as the Racers didn’t let the Cougars have more than an eight-point lead. Senior guard and forward Jashae Lee took control and led the comeback for the Racers. In the final nine seconds of the game the Racers had two opportunities to tie the game from three but could not convert. The Cougars were able to hold off the Racers and win 64-61.
James finished the game with 19 points and six rebounds. Lee finished with 12 points and seven rebounds for the Racers. Shronda Butts finished with 28 points of her own to lead the Cougars and all scorers in the game.
The Racers will stay home for their next game against Eastern Illinois on Jan. 27 at 6p.m. Eastern Illinois is 0-8 in conference play and sit at the bottom of the conference, while the Racers sit at No. 10 in the conference with a 2-5 record.