Story by Mark McFarland, Assistant Sports Editor
After breaking their losing streak to Austin Peay State with a 75-72 win, the women’s basketball team will head into the weekend with a possible 4-8 OVC record and four games left to play.
Three of those games will come against teams who are inside the top eight of the conference.
The Racers are on the outside looking in at ninth place in the conference and are currently two games behind Austin Peay for the final spot in the OVC Tournament.
Head Coach Rob Cross said the team was where they wanted to be all year for most of the game Saturday, even though they gave up two different 25-point leads en route to their win over the Governors.
He said in the second half the team was in a rush, but thought the team did a “great” job sharing the ball.
“Hopefully as we’re watching film the first couple days this week we will learn why we got a big lead, and we hadn’t been in that situation where we’ve had that type of lead,” Cross said. “We’ll learn to do what got us there.”
Cross said he didn’t want to slow the game down, but he wanted to make sure the team was taking good shots.
“I didn’t want to take the air out of the ball and hold it for 30 seconds every possession,” Cross said. “But we certainly didn’t need to take any contested shots or be in a hurry to do anything.”
Sophomore forward and guard Ke’Shunan James scored 18 points to bring her total average up to 18.2 points per game. Junior guard LeAsia Wright is behind her averaging 13 points per game.
Cross said he’s seen both women step up and take advantage of the opportunities they have.
The Racers have been outshot all season by their opponents 42-to-37 percent. Losing 13 games by 10 points or more and five of those games by 20 points or more. The offensive struggles have been the root of their issue as they make the final push to get into the OVC Tournament.
However, defensively Murray State has forced 17 turnovers per game along with eight steals per game, as of Feb. 8.
“It’s good to see LeAsia put the ball in the basket,” Cross said. “She’s struggled lately but she’s starting to get her confidence back.”
Both sophomore guard Jasmine Borders and freshman forward Abria Gulledge are shooting from the line and making court appearances.
Cross said he’s also seen both players step up.
He said Borders is taking open shots and taking the ball with confidence where he saw she has improved since the start of the season.
Likewise, Bria Bethea is out on injury and the team has been without her on the starting lineup for a few games.
“Hopefully we get her back sometime soon,” Cross said. “But she’s still day-to-day and we’ve missed her.”
Murray State will host Southeast Missouri State in a rematch after a 96-59 loss on Saturday.
The Racers will then travel to Eastern Illinois and Austin Peay to try and sweep both season series.
“We have been talking about the standings,” Cross said. “You know, big picture things, but they need to understand your goals of being in the tournament and competing for the championship at the end of the year are all in front of you, but it’s completely up to you. You control your destiny.”
The OVC Tournament will be March 2-5 in Nashville, Tennessee.