Racer basketball opens season with exhibition game

Story by Bryan Edwards, contributing writer

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Murray State’s freshman forward, Gilbert Thomas, Jr. dunks over Berry College.

The Murray State men’s basketball team opened the 2016-17 season with an exhibition against Berry College with a 116-71 victory in its only tune-up match before the regular season begins next Friday.

Junior forward Terrell Miller Jr. scored the opening points for the Racers with a 3-pointer from the corner and Murray State never looked back.

The Racers shot 63 percent from the field in the first half, helping them secure a 65-33 lead at halftime.

Senior guard Damarcus Croaker led the Racers with 18 points on 8-of-10 shooting in the first half. Senior guard Bryce Jones, along with junior guard, Jonathan Stark, led the team with four assists each. All 11 players dressed in a Murray State uniform scored during the first half. The Racers also shot 86 percent from the free-throw line, shooting 19-22 from the charity stripe.

While the offense scored 65 points, the defense held the Vikings to 33 points, shooting 35 percent from the field and 0-of-9 from the 3-point line in the half. The Vikings’ defense tallied 10 turnovers in the first half, leading to 23 points for the Racers.

Freshman forward Gilbert Thomas Jr. scored six points in the first half. Thomas scored 15 of his 21 points in the second half, as the Racers went on to take the victory 116-71.

The Racers were led by Croaker, who finished with 22 points on 10-of-14 shooting, 3 rebounds and 2 assists, and Thomas, who had 21 points on 9-of-10 shooting and 5 rebounds in the win.

Stark and Jones tallied an assist to turnover ratio of 15:1.

The Racers finished shooting 59 percent from the field on 43-of-73 shooting, recording 47 rebounds, 28 assists and 21 steals that led to 37 points.

The Racers scored 34 points on fast break, and Bryce Jones credits the team’s athleticism and speed for coming up with those results.

“We have a lot of athletic guys on our team,” Jones said. “As the point guard of the team, I want to push the ball and that’s what you’re going to see this year.”

Although coming out with the victory, Murray State did lose a piece of the team during their game when senior forward Gee McGhee hurt his ankle midway into the second half.

“Gee is fine, he rolled his ankle a little bit,” Jones said. “We are going to have to do some tricks to get him ready for Friday because we need him.”

Head Coach Matt McMahon said he hasn’t heard anything about McGhee’s status and is hoping to have him back for the season opener.

McMahon said he was pleased with the team’s overall performance.

“I was pleased with our defensive intensity, and I liked how we were able to share the ball on the offensive end,” McMahon said. “We still have to work on not turning the ball over, but I like where we are this early.”

Murray State opens regular season play at 7 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 11 against the Illinois State Redbirds at the CFSB Center.