Balanced effort launches Racers past Colonels

Bryan Edwards/The News

Story by Blake Sandlin, Assistant Sports Editor

Four Murray State basketball players accounted for 68 of the Racers’ 88 points to propel the team to an 88-73 win over Eastern Kentucky on Saturday.

The convincing win occured in a game where the Racers found themselves trailing early. The game was knotted early, and Eastern Kentucky led by as much as four midway through the first half, but Murray State would respond. The team rallied and recorded a 22-3 run to close the half out with a six-point lead and a full head of a steam.

The Racers carried that momentum forward right out of the locker room in the second. They strung together another huge 22-6 run to control a comfortable lead for the remainder of the game.

An emphatic slam with 32 seconds remaining by freshman forward Devin Gilmore rocked the CFSB Center to its core, punctuating another dominant display for the now 16-5 Racers.

Murray State’s chances of defeating this 8-15 Eastern Kentucky team were contingent on their defensive performance on Colonel junior forward Nick Mayo, who came into the game averaging 15.8 PPG and seven rebounds. Head Coach Matt McMahon said his game plan coming into Saturday’s game was to play Mayo man-to-man and trust his guys to make the plays.

“He warrants a double-team,” McMahon said. “And you can easily make the argument for that but we wanted to trust Brion [Sanchious] and Jalen [Dupree] to make him work for everything he got and play single coverage so that we wouldn’t give up a lot of open threes.”

It paid off. Although Mayo scored 25 points, he did it by taking 20 shots, and was held scoreless from the three-point line.

“Jalen and Brion were terrific defensively, and then EKU only went 2-for-11 from behind the arc, and I thought our guys did a really good job of following the game plan,” McMahon said.

Murray State wasn’t too shabby on the offensive end of the floor either. Senior guard Jonathan Stark scored 22 points to lead the Racers, followed by 16 points from junior guard Byron Hawkins and freshman guard Ja Morant. Senior forward Terrell Miller put up an impressive stat line with 14 points and 12 rebounds. Even junior forward Brion Sanchious got in on the action, recording eight points and seven rebounds.

With the win, the Racers swept their two-game homestand, as they defeated Morehead State Thursday night. Murray State will start its road trip on Thursday, when they travel to Southeast Missouri State to take on the Redhawks. The game will tip-off at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 1 at the Show Me Center.