Racers struggle to make big-time stops

Story by Bryan Edwards, Staff writer

The Murray State men’s basketball team faced off against the Southeast Missouri State Redhawks in their first game without senior guard Damarcus Croaker, who fractured his right foot in the Racers’ last game against Eastern Illinois.

The Redhawks shot 56 percent in the contest and had six players in double figures; they defeated the Racers 82-69. The loss guarantees that the Racers will not clinch the OVC West title or the no. 2 seed in the OVC Tournament.

Head Coach Matt McMahon said the team struggled to stop the SEMO offense in the final 12 minutes of the game.

“We were unable to get stops – they stepped up and knocked down some threes,” McMahon said. “They were so efficient. We tried to mix the defenses and give them a different look, but we just couldn’t get stops.”

Senior guard Bryce Jones led all scorers in the game with 18 points, scoring 16 of those points in the second half.

The Racers had a six-point lead with 13:47 remaining in the first half, but after the Redhawks captured the lead with 7:45 remaining, they held the lead for the remainder of the contest.

SEMO’s freshman forward Denzel Mahoney led the Redhawks with 14 points on 6-of-11 from the floor. Three other Redhawks scored 13 points in the game.

Junior guard Jonathan Stark, who is the OVC’s leading scorer at 22 points per game, scored 17 points on 7-of-16 shooting for the night. McMahon said the SEMO defense made it difficult for Stark to get into a rhythm offensively in the first half.

“They did a nice job on him in the first half,” McMahon said. “They loaded him and wouldn’t let him get anything easy.”

The loss moves the Racers back to 14-15 for the season and puts the team’s streak of 29 consecutive winning seasons on the line. The Racers must make it to the semifinals of the OVC Tournament to finish with a winning record and extend their streak to 30 seasons.

The Racers also fall to 8-7 in OVC play and out of the three-way tie for first in the OVC Western division.

The Racers will close out regular season play at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 25 against UT Martin in Martin, Tennessee.