With Murray State men’s basketball up 66-65 with 28 seconds to play, senior guard Keandre Cook hit a contested three from deep, ultimately becoming the dagger en route to a 71-69 victory for Missouri State University.
The Racers found themselves within reach after Cook’s three, trailing 68-66. However, after coming in for senior forward Anthony Smith after he fouled out, senior forward Darnell Cowart drove into the lane looking to draw a foul, missing the attempted layup and falling into the hands of the Bears to cap off an intense second half.
While the second half was full of offense, it was a slow grind to get there with a defensive showcase from both teams in the first half.
It wasn’t until the 10:36 mark that Missouri State cracked double digits, taking an 11-8 lead over the Racers. Both teams struggled to convert from deep with 25% clips from beyond the arc in the half, but it was the Bears who were able to find the net a little more with 40% shooting from the field.
Despite the Racers shooting 29.7% in the half to go along with no assists, the Racers found themselves within reach, trailing 25-22 going into the locker room.
With a much-improved offensive display in the second half—shooting 44% from the field—the Racers clawed their way back to their first lead of the game since 11-8 in the first half.
A 12-2 run capped off by a bucket from senior guard Jaiveon Eaves gave Murray State a 42-40 lead with 11 minutes to go in the ballgame.
From then on the game went down to the wire, but a 15-point second-half performance from Cook and 50% shooting for Missouri State in the half was too much for the Racers to overcome.
Sophomore guard Tevin Brown led all scorers with 19 points on 5-for-17 shooting, going 3-for-6 from three and 6-for-7 at the charity stripe. Eaves followed with 14 points and six rebounds, while Smith nabbed a 12-point and 10-rebound double-double.
Freshman forward Demond Robinson also impressed, securing some minutes in crunch time by affecting shots around the rim with two blocks to go along with six points and a rebound.
Head Coach Matt McMahon says that Robinson’s effort over the past few games is what has started to give the freshman forward some big minutes for the Racers.
“I thought he was fantastic tonight,” McMahon said. “He’s earned a lot of playing time with his effort here lately. I thought he just played hard. He made the touches tough for Prim. I mean Prim was the No. 2 JUCO player in America last year. He’s starting to learn what we’re trying to do offensively and that’s going to enable his role to continue to increase.”
Prior to the game it was made known that freshman guard Chico Carter Jr. suffered a fractured bone in his hand last week during the Gulf Coast Showcase.
McMahon said he is disappointed as Carter Jr. had gotten off to a solid start in his freshman year, playing in all seven games and earning two starting nods while averaging 8.4 ppg. However, McMahon noted that he wishes the freshman guard a speedy recovery and is excited about his future at Murray State.
Meanwhile, McMahon let it be known that this will not be an excuse for the team and that he and the team still have high expectations going forward and on Saturday night.
“We’ve got some guys out, but the standard doesn’t change,” McMahon said. “I hope we can really rally behind our team, have a great crowd in the CFSB Center on Saturday and find a way to win a big game for us.”
Murray State will return to the Bluegrass State when they are set for a 7 p.m. tip-off against Middle Tennessee State University on Saturday, Dec. 7, at the CFSB Center.