‘It’s a time to celebrate’

Nicole Ely/The News
Bennie Purcell’s retired jersey number banner hung lower than the others in memoriam of his time at Murray State.Nicole Ely/The News Bennie Purcell’s retired jersey number banner hung lower than the others in memoriam of his time at Murray State.

Racers honor Purcell, blaze past Southeast Missouri State

Story by, Kelsey RandolphSports Editor

Nicole Ely/The News Bennie Purcell’s retired jersey number banner hung lower than the others in memoriam of his time at Murray State.

Nicole Ely/The News
Bennie Purcell’s retired jersey number banner hung lower than the others in memoriam of his time at Murray State.

“He came here and he never left,” said senior forward Jeffery Moss, reflecting on the passing of Bennie Purcell. “His spirit will always be here. It’s something Murray State will always remember.”

In a silent arena among former basketball players, Racer fans, friends and family, a moment of silence blanketed the CFSB Center for “Mr. Murray State,” Bennie Purcell.

“I think as a coach here at Murray State University it’s our job and duty really to teach the tradition here,” said Head Coach Matt McMahon. “The championship tradition, the players that have come before them and what it means to Murray State … They might not appreciate it now, but they’ll look back in 30 or 40 years and know they played in the game with the pregame tribute to Bennie Purcell.”

Early Friday morning, Purcell, former men’s basketball player, the first to reach the 1,000-Point Club, a former coach and Racer fan, passed away. His legacy is one that was felt through the entire game Saturday evening.

Moss, the 43rd member to be a part of the 1,000-Point Club, said he wasn’t expecting to be a part of the tribute video that preceded the game Saturday.

“It motivated me to get out there and do what I did,” Moss said.

Moss shot 20 points, six of those points coming from behind the arc. Moss and junior forward Gee McGhee dominated their way from behind the 3-point line, totaling 43 points of their 83-56 win against the Southeast Missouri State Redhawks. McGhee, usually a starter, came off the bench almost eight minutes into the game.

McMahon said he wasn’t benching McGhee but wanted to give some other guys the chance to prove what they could do coming off the bench.

By the end of the first half, the Racers were ahead 23 points. The energy and crowd participation showed no sign of letting up, McMahon said.

The team entered the second half with the lead. Moss said the crowd wasn’t always on their feet, but the energy helped improve their game along with guest appearance Cameron Payne, 2014-15 guard for the Racers.

Jenny Rohl/The News Junior guard Bryce Jones goes up for a layup Saturday against the Redhawks.

Jenny Rohl/The News
Junior guard Bryce Jones goes up for a layup Saturday against the Redhawks.

The Racers, humbled by their win, took a moment to raise their hands up to Purcell’s No. 21 banner, which hung lower than the others in remembrance.

The team offered many thanks to Purcell, who used to stand atop the B entrance of the CFSB Center, watching the Racers in every win and loss they encountered.

In the last months of his life, Purcell made appearances at the Hall of Fame inductee dinner and presented Moss with his 1,000 point ball in December.

“We just wanted to go out there and play our hardest for Mr. Purcell,” Moss said.

McMahon said from the beginning of his head coaching position he was always inspired by Purcell.

“As we all know it’s not every day you run into people who give you that type of support and encouragement,” McMahon said. “Both in the good times and in bad. But he’s been great to me and he’s what Murray State basketball is about what he’s what Murray State University is all about. I want to continue to thank Mel Purcell and his family. Obviously we’re sad but it’s a time to celebrate the life that he lived and the impact that he had on so many Murray State Racers.”

McMahon said the team would continue to remember his kindred spirit. The team has a bye on Thursday that will allow for a day of rest and recuperation before their travel to Austin Peay State Saturday.

The Racers are No. 1 in the OVC West with an 8-5 record in the OVC and a 14-12 record overall.

After traveling to Clarksville, the Racers will travel to Eastern Illinois on Feb. 25 and then host their final home game on Feb. 27 against UT Martin.