Story by Collin Morris, Assistant Sports Editor
In the midst of the mild winter weather, the Murray State women’s basketball team was still able to stay hot.
Since losing their final game of the fall semester in five-point loss to the University of Evansville, the ladies have raced to the season finish line at a breakneck pace, winning eight of their last 10 games and four of their first five conference matchups.
The run began on Dec. 10 with an overtime thriller against Northern Kentucky in which the Racers edged out a 72-69 win on the backs of senior guard LeAsia Wright and junior forward Ke’Shunan James, who both poured on more than 20 points. The Norse were defeated after missing a shot to tie at the buzzer.
Next on the Racers’ schedule was Division III opponent MacMurray College, who they defeated by a margin of 56 points. Murray State put five players into double-digit scoring figures while holding the Highlanders to 23 percent shooting and all but one player to under seven points.
Following their brief stay in Kentucky, the women’s team then traveled to Kansas for the Shocker Winter Classic hosted by Wichita State.
In the first of their two games played in Wichita, the Racers defeated the University of the Incarnate Word 72-68 behind another disseminate offensive performance for the team. Four players again scored in double figures and the team posted a season-high 41 percent shooting from behind the arc.
The Wildcats of Abilene Christian University then handed the Racers an 81-57 loss to close out the tournament. After losing their 2-0 scoring lead earned on the first basket of the game, the Racers trailed the Wildcats for the remainder of the game.
The final non-conference game matched the women’s team with Mississippi Valley State. This time, Wright and James combined for more than half of the team’s points, scoring 45 on 75 percent shooting from the floor and 60 percent shooting from three.
Conference play for the Racers then began with a comeback win against Tennessee State. After trailing 34-27 at halftime, a 53-38 second half performance on 50 percent 3-point shooting resulted in an 80-72 victory and 1-0 start.
Jacksonville State fell victim to the Racers next, losing 71-64 and never once leading the Racers despite mounting a similar second half comeback of their own.
The Racers’ first and only conference loss to date came at the hands (or claws) of the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles. Jasmine Borders, junior guard, led Murray State in scoring for the game with 17 points on 44 percent shooting, while James followed with 16. Wright had an abnormal night, shooting 27 percent and scoring only 6 points.
A bounce back win came shortly after, as Murray State defeated Eastern Illinois (who currently sits at 1-5 in the OVC) by a score of 92-74. Wright and James returned to form, both scoring more than 20 points, and junior guard Bria Bethea contributed an additional 16 points on 40 percent shooting.
Finally, in their most recent contest, the Racers topped Southern Illinois University Edwardsville by a score of 84-77. Wright and James scored 23 points each, and Wright recorded a double-double with 12 total rebounds, as well as 4 steals on the defensive end.
As a team, Murray State shot 50 percent from the field, going 30-60, and 43 percent from 3-point land on 13-30 shooting. On defensive, the Racers forced 21 points on turnovers.
Despite the team’s recent success, particularly in conference games, Head Coach Rob Cross intends to keep its focus.
“We just worry about the possession we’re in, whether it’s in practice or in a game,” Cross said. “We’re just focused on the process and staying in the moment. Nothing is decided, and we’re a little more than a quarter through the conference season, but in this league we say it every year – nothing is going to be decided until the last night of the season. That’s when you’ll know who’s in the tournament and what the seeds are.”
Conference play will continue for the women’s basketball team at 4:00 p.m. this Saturday, Jan. 21, in Clarksville, Tennessee, as its welcomed by the Governors of Austin Peay State.