Story by Blake Sandlin, Assistant Sports Editor
It was a tale of two halves in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, Thursday night when the Racers squared off against Southeast Missouri State.
Murray State didn’t own a lead the entire first half, and trailed by as much as 13, but the Racers showcased their resilience by rallying to win 87-75.
SEMO stormed out to claim a commanding 10-0 start to the game, as the Racers struggled to gain any traction in the first half. A late first half run helped Murray State soothe the deficit, but the Redhawks entered the locker room leading 34-32.
The Redhawks replicated their strong first half start with a similar one in the second. They extended to their lead to as much as eight points, but this time, Murray State had an answer.
With 8:38 remaining in the second half, senior forward Terrell Miller knocked down a three to give the Racers their first lead of the night after trailing for nearly 32 minutes.
After Miller’s heroics, the Racers didn’t look back. They strung together a 16-2 run in the remaining minutes of the game to crush any hope of a SEMO comeback and to cement an impressive come-from-behind victory to extend their record to 17-5. The 13-point turnaround marked the largest deficit Murray State has overcome all season.
Murray State Head Coach Matt McMahon said his team’s work on the defensive end, coupled with its patience on offense was paramount in the Racers’ 16-2 run.
“I think we were able to piece together some stops, and that allowed us to get out in transition,” McMahon said. “We started making the extra pass. I thought our shot selection in the second half was much better. We had a lot of high quality looks, and big time players stepped forward and knocked them down.”
The usual suspects – Miller, senior guard Jonathan Stark and freshman guard Ja Morant – were instrumental in Murray State’s unsuspecting comeback. The trio combined for 44 of the Racers’ 55 second half points and 67 of their final 87 to lead the Racers to their ninth conference win.
While Murray State ultimately made it out of Missouri with a win, they struggled to remedy SEMO’s sophomore guard Denzel Mahoney. Mahoney recorded 30 points and eight rebounds – 23 in the second half – while three of his teammates compiled double-double finishes, but it wasn’t enough to top the determined Racers. They held the Redhawks, who average 10 three-pointers per game, to just 5-of-22 shooting from behind the arc.
“They’re a really good offensive basketball team,” McMahon said of SEMO. “They space you out; especially when (Denzel) Mahoney’s at the four. He’s such a tough cover. It’s hard for your forwards to guard him, and it’s hard for your guards to defend him inside. He’s just a really good player.”
The Racers will face another road test when they head to UT Martin this weekend. The game tips-off at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 3, in Martin, Tennessee.