Story by Collin Morris, Assistant Sports Editor
The Murray State men’s basketball team welcomed Southeast Missouri State to the CFSB Center in an OVC West matchup Thursday night.
After leading by nine at the half, the Racers struggled in the second half and fell to the Redhawks 75-74.
Head Coach Matt McMahon said lack of aggressive play caused the second half meltdown.
“We were aggressive during the first half against their zone, and we executed very well getting into the gaps of the defense,” McMahon said. “The second half we got away from the aggressiveness offensively. We passed the ball around and made lazy cross-court passes that led to turnovers and easy baskets for the other team.”
The Racers shot 57 percent from the field in the first half and were led by senior forward Gee McGhee, who had a game high of 12 points coming off the bench in the first half.
The Racers also shot 50 percent from behind the 3-point line during the first half. The Redhawks turned up the defensive intensity in the second half, forcing the Racers to commit nine turnovers during the half and holding the Racers’ 3-point attack to only 22 percent on 2-of-9 shooting.
The Racers found themselves down by eight with four minutes remaining in the game, and after a Racer timeout, junior guard Jonathan Stark helped spark a 9-0 run to give the Racers a 72-71 lead with 2:10 remaining in the game.
After trading baskets to make the score 74-73, SEMO’s freshman guard Denzel Mahoney missed an open three that was rebounded by Redhawk forward Trey Kellum who drew a foul and went to the free throw line with 5.6 seconds remaining.
Kellum made both free throws, giving the Redhawks a 75-74 lead. The Racers ran down the floor and turn the ball over to the Redhawks, who were called for a double-dribble foul, giving the ball back to the Racers with 0.1 left on the clock. Kellem tipped the inbound pass and time ran out, giving the Redhawks the victory.
The Racers were led by Stark, who recorded 24 points on 12-of-20 shooting. The Redhawks were led by Mahoney, who recorded 23 points on 9-of-15 shooting.
McMahon said the team struggled handling Mahoney and their unorthodox lineup.
“We didn’t have an answer for him tonight,” McMahon said. “He put us into some tough spots tonight. They ran a four-guard lineup, and we couldn’t find a lineup that could stop him. He made some good drives, and we were just unable to find a way to stop him.”
McGhee said the 1-3-1 zone defense that the Redhawks ran made getting open looks difficult for the offense.
“We were able to get open shots after we drove to the basket in the first half,” McGhee said. “When they played the zone defense, they were able to cause us to rush our shots a little. They executed the zone very well, and we will learn from this.”
SEMO Head Coach Rick Ray said he wanted the team to play the zone defense to try to contain Stark.
“We couldn’t guard Stark,” Ray said. “I thought our zone did a good job of corralling him for much of the game. When they figured it out, he could get to the basket and get points. Overall, the reason we were playing the zone was because we couldn’t guard him.”
The loss puts the Racers at 11-11 on the season and 5-3 in the OVC. They will welcome the Skyhawks of UT Martin to town at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 28, at the CFSB Center