Story by Blake Sandlin, Assistant Sports Editor
Junior guard Byron Hawkins didn’t waste any time making his mark on the court en route to the Racer basketball team’s 118-61 season-opening victory over Brescia University.
Hawkins, in his first game as a Racer after sitting out last year due to NCAA transfer regulations, scored 28 points off of 10-of-13 shooting to lead the Racers to their first win of their 2017 campaign. Hawkins’ outburst marked the most points scored in a Racer’s debut game since the inception of the OVC in 1948.
With all accolades aside, the junior guard said getting the first game of his Murray State career under his belt was an accomplishment in itself.
“It was good to be out there,” Hawkins said. “It felt good. I’m not really concerned about the points or anything, it just felt good to be out there playing.”
The Racers struggled to maintain a breathable lead early in the first half. Midway through the first, Murray State held a tight 16-14 lead over the Bearcats, but a 23-4 run helped the Racers close the half out with a commanding 60-30 lead.
Murray State picked up right where they left off in the first half with a 25-2 run to start the second half. High-flying antics from junior guard Shaq Buchanan and a plethora of awe-inspiring flashy passes from freshman guard Ja Morant highlighted an offense that went on to claim an emphatic 118-61 win. The 57-point win marked the third-largest margin of victory ever recorded in the CFSB Center.
“I was really pleased with our effort tonight,” McMahon said. “I think we made some improvements at the defensive end of the floor. I thought when Shaq came into the game there in order to speed the tempo up, it was very beneficial for us. I thought it was a great opening night crowd, and I think we got contributions from everybody.”
The Racers had six players enter double-figure scoring Friday night. Sophomore Jalen Dupree scored 17 points and added eight rebounds, while senior forward Terrell Miller recorded his first double-double of the season with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Morant accrued 11 assists in his debut.
Although the Racers cruised to an impressive win in their opener, it won’t get any easier from here. The team will host Middle Tennessee State University at 7 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 13, in a game that McMahon said will serve as a formidable test for this Murray State team.
“We’ve played Middle the last four years, and we have a lot of respect for their program,” McMahon said. “Coach [Kermit] Davis has done an incredible job at building that program to where they are as an NCAA tournament team the last two seasons and on the verge of a Sweet 16.”