Men’s basketball starts conference play 4-1

Story by Bryan Edwards, Staff writer

The Murray State men’s basketball team continued play throughout the holiday season and began OVC play on New Year’s Eve.

When classes were dismissed and finals concluded at Murray State, the Racers were sitting at 5-4 overall after defeating Detroit Mercy 86-76 at home in the final game of the fall semester.

In their first game of Winter Break, the Racers shot a season low 28 percent from the field in a 78-46 loss against Evansville. No player for Murray State was able to record more than nine points in the contest.

The Racers responded with a 103-65 win over Bethel but then fell in three straight contests, including a 77-62 loss to Wright State in the CFSB Center. The loss was the team’s first at home this season.

After getting back on the winning track with a win over Brescia 99-83, the Racers opened OVC play against Tennessee State at home.

After trailing for the majority of the contest, the Racers were able to pull away in the end thanks to 20 point efforts from junior guard Jonathan Stark and senior guard Damarcus Croaker.

The team started the new year strong after defeating the Gamecocks of Jacksonville State 76-63 on the road, giving them a 2-0 record in the OVC.

Head Coach Matt McMahon said he believes the team is starting to realize their roles and play together.

“Chemistry is so important, and the players are starting to buy into their roles,” McMahon said. “I like where we are as a team and that will give us an opportunity to keep getting better as we go through the league schedule.”

The Racers then traveled to Cookeville, Tennessee, to take on the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles. The Racer offense stalled early, trailing 21-6 in the first 11 minutes of the game. The Racers responded with a 25-8 run to end the first half but were unable to capitalize on the momentum and lost 71-67.

McMahon was happy with the way the team bounced back in the first half but was hoping that the team could keep the lead in the end.

“Whenever you go down 21-6 in the game, it really puts you in a tough position for the rest of the game,” McMahon said. “There were a couple of occasions in the second half where we would get our lead to five, but we would either give up the ball or give up a three. We were never able to extend the lead to put ourselves in a better position to win the game.”

The Racers traveled to Charleston, Illinois, to play against Eastern Illinois in an OVC West Matchup. In a competitive game, the Racer defense stood strong through the final seven minutes to help the Racers win 83-72.

After closing their four-game road trip with a 67-59 win over Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, the Racers are sitting at 10-9 overall, with a 4-1 record in the OVC, which leads the conference’s Western Division.

McMahon said he was pleased with how the team has played over the break, especially since the team came back from Christmas but still sees areas that need improvement.

“We learned a lot from the nonconference schedule and have shown improvements as a team since Christmas,” McMahon said. “We’ve played great in conference play, but we need to work on consistency on both sides of the ball.”

Murray State students will be returning for the spring semester just in time to watch the Racers play against Eastern Kentucky at 7 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 19 at the CFSB Center.