Story by Quinnen Taylor, Staff Writer
The first regular season game for the Murray State men’s basketball team finished in thrilling fashion, as sophomore guard Jonathan Stark hit the game-winning 3-pointer to give the Racers a 73-70 edge over the Illinois State Redbirds.
Head Coach Matt McMahon said he was pleased with how his team handled the tough conditions.
“We talked about it before the game, we wanted to open up the season against a great team and a great program,” McMahon said. “It wasn’t always a pretty game, but it was definitely a tough, hard-fought game. I was really proud of our guys. That was an awesome college basketball game and a great way to start the season against a great team.”
The first half featured several lead changes and runs from both teams.
The Redbirds connected on the first basket of the game to make it 2-0 with a lay-up by junior forward Mikyle McIntosh at 19:41.
Murray State’s first lead of the night came at the 16:17 mark after a three-pointer by junior forward Terrell Miller for a score of 8-5.
Illinois State retook command at 12:23 with senior guard Paris Lee’s layup for a 15-13 lead.
The Redbirds connected on a 3-pointer by Lee for an 18-13 score. However, the Racers responded.
After a 6-0 run by senior guard Demarcus Croaker with a lay-up, dunk and jumper, the Racers regained the lead to make it 19-18.
With back and forth momentum swings to end the half, sophomore guard Keyshawn Evans drilled a half-court shot to give Illinois State the 32-29 lead to end the first.
Murray State concluded the first half shooting 32.4 percent from the field and 20 percent from beyond the arc. Illinois State finished the first with 37 percent shooting and 42.9 percent from long range.
During the second half, the Racers faced a deficit until the 14:09 mark when senior guard Bryce Jones hit a 3-pointer to give Murray State the advantage 43-42.
The Racers maintained a lead up to 5:29 when McIntosh’s lay-up plus the foul for the three-point play gave the Redbirds a 56-55 command.
Illinois State increased its lead to as much as seven with 3:23 left in the second half, but Murray State chipped away.
Stark nailed a 3-pointer at the 2:41 mark to cut the deficit to four as Jones connected on two free throws to make it a one-possession contest at 62-60 with 2:24 remaining.
The bout continued to be a back-and-forth commotion until Stark hit the game-winning 3 with just two seconds on the clock to give the Racers a 73-70 victory.
Stark said they dealt with pressure but to come away with a win was an exciting moment.
“The coaches and the players that kept telling me to shoot no matter what, if I was missing, they kept the confidence in me and I kept shooting,” Stark said. “It’s an amazing feeling to get my first win as a Racer I want to thank the teammates and the coaches because we kept pushing even though we had a little adversity, we kept pushing.”
The Racers finished the game on 41.4 percent shooting overall and converted 36.4 percent of their 3-pointers. The Redbirds converted 44.4 percent of their field goals and 37.5 percent of their 3-pointers.
Murray State’s next game will be against the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 15 in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.