Story by Bryan Edwards, Staff writer
Murray State faced UT Martin inside the Elam Center. The Skyhawks played for the OVC West title while the Racers needed the win to claim the fourth seed in the OVC Tournament
Down by 20 with 10 minutes remaining in the game, the Racers cut the lead down to one point in the closing minutes but ultimately fell 83-76. The win rewarded UT Martin the OVC West title and the no. 2 seed in the OVC Tournament.
Head Coach Matt McMahon said he wasn’t happy with the team early on but was proud with the fight they showed later.
“I was extremely disappointed and shocked that we would come out and play that lack of energy and intensity for our play in the first half,” McMahon said. “I am proud of the fight we showed in the second half to get back into the game.”
With the loss, the Racers will be the no. 7 seed in the OVC Tournament and will play Tennessee Tech in the first round of the tournament.
Freshman forward Jalen Dupree collected his first double-double in a Racer uniform, posting a season-high 20 points and 11 rebounds. Junior guard Jonathan Stark led the Racers with 23 points and played all 40 minutes during the game.
McMahon said Dupree played a fantastic game – the best he’s played all season.
“I thought Jalen was fantastic,” McMahon said. “Jalen was able to pick up a lot of loose balls on missed threes, and he was either able to make a shot or draw a foul.”
The Skyhawks went wire to wire with the lead, getting their lead up to 24 points going into the half.
With 10:17 remaining in the contest, UTM had a 20-point lead. Following the free throws that put the Skyhawks up by 20, the Racers sparked a 26-7 run to cut the lead down to one. Dupree scored 11 of his 20 points during the run.
The Skyhawks made eight free throws in the final two minutes to seal the game and the OVC West with an 83-76 final.
The loss moves the Racers to 14-16 on the year and puts the streak of 29 consecutive winning seasons in jeopardy. The Racers will have to win the OVC Tournament to extend that streak and will have to win four games in four days to do so.
The Racers will tip off the OVC Tournament at 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 1 against the Tech Golden Eagles in the Municipal Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee.