OPENING NIGHT ANALYSIS: Racers vs. Bearcats

Story by Bryan Edwards, Sports Editor

Story by Blake Sandlin, Assistant Sports Editor

It’s the first game back in “The Bank” since Feb. 18, in which Murray State’s men’s basketball team will look to overcome an underwhelming year with their first test against Brescia University.

SCOUTING BRESCIA

The Bearcats, an NAIA school, enter the CFSB Center with an 0-2 record in their 2017-18 campaign with losses to FIsk University and Lindsey Wilson College. Brescia finished its 2016-17 season with a 12-17 record.

The Bearcats are led by a trio of players in sophomore forward Kayode Daboiku, junior guard/forward Dillon Geralds and senior guard Tavon Johnson. All three players are averaging at least 13 PPG, with Johnson leading the way, averaging 24.5 PPG.

Johnson scored a career high 36 points in the season-opening loss to Fisk on Nov. 6

Brescia is coached by Brian Skortz, who is in his second year with the program. Along with being the head coach of the Bearcats, Skortz also serves as the Director of Athletics for the school.

The Bearcats come from the River States Conference, one of the 21 different conferences in the NAIA.

Murray State and Brescia will share a common opponent this season. The Bearcats went up against Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville in exhibition action, a member of the OVC with the Racers. The Cougars defeated Brescia 95-75 on Nov. 5.

ONE-TWO PUNCH RETURNING

Despite coming off their first losing season since the 1986-87 season, the Racers have no shortage of talent returning on their roster – talent that has inevitably caught the attention of media and various pundits across the OVC.

Senior guard Jonathan Stark was tabbed as the 2017 OVC Preseason Player of the Year after averaging 21.9 PPG last year and setting Murray State’s 3-point single season record with 108 made threes.

Stark’s accolades last season has put the rest of the country on notice. On Wednesday, CollegeInsider.com named Stark to their 2017-18 Lou Henson Award preseason Watch List. The Lou Henson award is presented annually to the nation’s top Division I mid-major player.

Alongside Stark is his counterpart and one half of the Racers’ dynamic scoring duo, senior forward Terrell Miller. Last season, Miller and Stark ranked second in all of Division I hoops in combined scoring, averaging 37.9 PPG. Miller’s 16.4 PPG and 8.1 RPG will likely be in full effect in Friday’s matchup against the Bearcats.

DANGEROUS DEPTH

Along with Stark and Miller, the Racers showed signs of having secondary scoring both in the lineup and on the bench.

If exhibition games count for anything, Murray State freshman guard Ja Morant and junior guard Shaq Buchanan are set for expectation-shattering seasons.

Morant was given the nod as the starting point guard for the Racers in their exhibition and made the most out of his opportunity. Mornat led the team in points (24), rebounds (9) and assists (6) in the 98-82 win over McKendree University.

Buchanan made his impact in short time, scoring 19 points in just 15 minutes, with 15 of those points coming in just seven minutes in the second half.

Both Morant and Buchanan showed great efficiency during the game, shooting 17-of-22 in the exhibition (77.2 percent from the floor).

TIPPING OFF THE SEASON

The Racers tip-off their 2017-18 season against the Bearcats at 7 p.m. tonight at the CFSB Center.