Men prepare for last home game
Story by Kelsey Randolph Sports Editor
After a 76-60 win in their rivalry game against Austin Peay State, the Racers share the No. 1 spot for the OVC West.
With two games left in the conference, one on the road against Eastern Illinois and their final home game against UT Martin Saturday, the team hopes to successfully nail the No. 2 seed for the OVC Tournament next week.
Head Coach Matt McMahon said consistency is the biggest focus, winning most of their biggest conference games in the second half of the season.
McMahon said the team needs to focus on defending the glass, though he feels they have done a good job of limiting the other team’s second opportunities.
“From day one, when I was fortunate enough to get the job, we got to trust the process – it’s going to be a process,” McMahon said. “Eight of our twelve guys have never worn a jersey at Murray State until this season. There have been a lot of bumps in the road, but I think the guys are starting to come together as a group. The chemistry seems to be good. Role definition is probably as best it’s been all year, and I think guys accepted those roles and play to those strengths.”
Thursday the Racers take on the Eastern Illinois Panthers (8-7 in the OVC, 12-16 overall). The Panthers lost to UT Martin Feb. 18 87-84 and won at Southeast Missouri State Feb. 20 71-68.
McMahon said he’s focused on practices up to Thursday’s game, then will focus on Saturday’s game against the UT Martin Skyhawks.
The Skyhawks (9-5 in the OVC, 17-12 overall) are on a seven-game win streak. They will face the Tennessee State Tigers in the Skyhawk Arena Thursday.
“For simplicity purposes, we don’t focus on records,” McMahon said. “We worry about getting better in practice. We have a good group, hard working and they’ve handled adversity all year whether an injury or another situation. They’ve hammered away, and they’ve continued to do a good job.”
WHO TO LOOK AT
In the Austin Peay game Saturday, junior guard Damarcus Croaker made 14 points, scoring his first double-double of the season with a career high 12 rebounds.
Senior forward Jeffery Moss led the team with 22 points, 19 of those coming from the second half.
Senior forward Wayne Langston saw several games of foul trouble, but McMahon said he’s seen Langston be able to control the fouls.
“Jeffery has been great, he’s been an iron man for us, basically playing whole game defending the other teams’ best player,” McMahon said. “You need your seniors to step up. Wayne has been doing the same thing. He’s getting a lot of attention in the post. I want them to enjoy each moment in games and practice they’ll look back on for the rest of their life. I just want them to enjoy it.”
“We can be as high as fifth and as low as ninth, I guess, if you look at the standings,” Cross said.
Murray State has a rare week to prepare for UT Martin as its bye week comes in the last week of the season. Cross said it gives a couple of players who are banged up a chance to get the rest they need.
“If it was up to me we wouldn’t have our bye week as the last week of our regular season,” Cross said. “But, you know, it is what it is, we just have to make the best of it.”
Just like the first game, the Racers played Southeast Missouri State. The Skyhawks defeated the Racers by 30 points at UT Martin. In the rematch against SEMO, the Racers were able to come away with a 19-point win at the CFSB Center.
Coach Cross said the SEMO game proved they could overcome the adversity by losing badly on the road and coming home and winning. He said the team committed too many turnovers when they played at UT Martin and said they cannot do that again if they want to have any chance to beat the Skyhawks.
“We have to take care of the basketball,” Cross said. “That has to be our number one priority.”