Story by Bryan Edwards, Staff writer
The Racers fell 72-67 to UT Martin in their semifinal contest, snapping a streak of 29 consecutive winning seasons with a final record of 16-17. The last time the Racers finished with a losing record, Ronald Reagan was the president of the United States.
Head Coach Matt McMahon said he didn’t think about the streak during the game and was disappointed in the loss.
“There will be plenty of time for reflection for that,” McMahon said. “I was focused on this week and trying to find ways to advance throughout this season.”
McMahon credited UTM on their efforts and how they played on the offensive end of the floor.
“I thought their offensive execution was very efficient,” McMahon said. “We mixed some coverage on them but were never able to slow them down. They also did a nice job with their zone coverage and we were just unable to get the looks we wanted to.”
The Racers went cold in the second half, shooting 31 percent while allowing the Skyhawks to shoot 52 percent.
UTM Head Coach Anthony Stewart said he told his seniors at halftime about the importance of the game and playing careers as Skyhawks.
“We just had a frank and up-front discussion about what was about to happen,” Stewart said. “You have 20 minutes left to go out and do what you have to do for your brothers, your family and yourself.”
McMahon said fatigue from playing their third game in as many days could have been a factor in the poor second half shooting.
“I’m sure there was some,” McMahon said. “We just weren’t able to get the stops when we needed them down the stretch. We shoot 31 percent and they’re executing well on the offensive end and we just couldn’t get those stops.”
The Racers finished the contest with four players in double figures, with junior forward Terrell Miller leading the team with 17. Miller also had 10 rebounds, finishing his season with a double-double.
The Skyhawks held junior guard Jonathan Stark to 11 points. Stewart said someone on the Racers other than Stark would be the player to beat them.
“The plan was simple, I sat with my staff and watched him (Stark) score 80 points in two games,” Stewart said. “I didn’t know what was going to happen but I did know that Jonathan Stark wasn’t going to beat us tonight. My defensive coach had a great game plan tonight, we followed it and our guys executed it.”
UTM junior forward Matthew Butler scored 11 of his team-high 17 points in the second half in route to the victory.
The Racers’ season ends with the loss. Murray State will have a majority of its roster back for the 2017-18 season but will lose key players like seniors Bryce Jones, Damarcus Croaker and Gee McGhee.
McMahon said he’s unsure if any post-season additions will be made for next year.