Story by Mark McFarland, Assistant Sports Editor
The No. 8 Murray State Racers shocked the No. 1 UT Martin Skyhawks 78-76 in the first round of the OVC Tournament Wednesday afternoon, making history as the first No. 8 team to beat a No. 1 seed. It is the first time since the 2012-13 season the Racers have made the tournament and the first time since the 2011-12 season they have gotten past the first round.
Looking ahead, the Racers will play 12 p.m. Friday in the semifinals against the winner of Eastern Kentucky and Austin Peay State at the Municipal Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee.
Eastern Kentucky beat the Racers in the 2012-13 OVC Tournament while the Racers defeated Austin Peay in the 2011-12 OVC Tournament. Murray State lost by 12 points in the only meeting against Eastern Kentucky this season and lost both games against Austin Peay.
The Skyhawks beat the Racers twice this season by a combined score of 162-111, and 70-49 last Saturday at the CFSB Center.
The Racers started the game with an 11-2 run in the first quarter and battled on from there. The Skyhawks did not let the Racers out of sight as they continued to go back and forth the whole game. Skyhawks Head Coach Kevin McMillan said the Racers should not have been a No. 8 seed for the tournament because of the way they charged the court Wednesday.
“Going into the final week there were nine teams that could have finished anywhere from five to nine,” McMillan said. “That’s not an eight seed. An eight seed can’t compete with the fours and the fives in the league – that’s not an eight seed.”
On the final possession of the game the Skyhawks’ freshman guard Emanye Robertson had a clear path to the basket to tie the game with an easy layup. Instead, she passed it out to senior guard Katie Schubert for a contested three for the win but came up short. McMillan said thought the decision may have been the wrong one, it is a decision even he probably would have made.
“I have no problems with a ball in the air to win a game from Katie Schubert to win any game,” McMillian said.
Sophomore guard Ke’Shunan James was held by UT Martin to zero points Saturday night, but came out to get 20 points and 13 rebounds for her fifth double-double of the year in Wednesday’s game. Her rebounds tie her career high. McMillan said James came out and played with a changed mindset, and that was the difference in the games.
“I think struggled is an understatement,” James said when asked about her performance Saturday. “The whole time I was just thinking if I’m not doing it from the offensive side, I have to do it on the defensive side.”
Racers Head Coach Rob Cross said he was happy with the way freshman guard Abria Gulledge showed up because she played a huge part in the win Wednesday.
“Earlier in the game she was struggling to make shots on the perimeter, so what did she do?” Cross said. “She didn’t hang her head and pout about it – she attacked the basket.”