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The road ends here

Elizabeth Leggett March 27, 2015 Athletics, Basketball, Slider Featured stories
Photo by Jenny Rohl/The News

Photo by Jenny Rohl/The News

It was a fairytale season with a nightmare of an ending – an ending that was all too familiar for the Murray State Racers as they lost on a buzzer-beater three from Old Dominion University on Wednesday during the quarterfinal game of the National Invitation Tournament at the Ted Constant Convocation Center in Norfolk, Va.

After junior forward Jeffery Moss hit a 3-pointer to tie it up with just nine seconds left on the clock, it appeared the Racers had come back to push the game to overtime. The sellout crowd in the Convocation Center fell silent until the Monarch’s junior guard Trey Freeman shocked not just the fans, but the nation with a deep three to end the Racers’ season 72-69.

The last-second shot echoed the OVC Championship game against Belmont when the Racers lost in the last seconds pushing them out of the NCAA Tournament.

“I’m extremely hurt for my guys,” said Head Coach Steve Prohm. “We’re 27 and two in our last 29 games, and both our games we’ve lost on a fadeaway 3 and a bank 3-pointer. God’s blessed this team abundantly.”

Down by 10 points with 3:39 to play, the Racers stepped it up in the final minutes of the game in hopes of ending their season in New York, but instead Old Dominion was able to finish out a perfect home season with their 20th consecutive home win. … Continue Reading

Racer fans gather for food, festivities at Tequila Cowboy

Elizabeth Leggett March 12, 2015 Athletics, Basketball, Slider Featured stories
Jenny Rohl/The News Cheerleaders form a tunnel outside Tequila Cowboy March 7 in Nashville, Tenn., to welcome Racer fans to the Alumni Association’s pregame event.

Jenny Rohl/The News
Cheerleaders form a tunnel outside Tequila Cowboy March 7 in Nashville, Tenn., to welcome Racer fans to the Alumni Association’s pregame event.

Racer Nation took over Nashville, Tenn., this weekend, and the Alumni Association brought all the blue and gold to one location Saturday night before the championship game against Belmont. Before the heartbreaking loss, fans were hopeful as they crowded the upper level of Tequila Cowboy Bar and Grill to eat, drink and enjoy live music from the Racer Band.

Rachel Foley, the Racer to Racer Coordinator of Alumni Affairs, was pleased with  the turnout. In years past, the Alumni Association has held similar events at Bailey’s Sports Grille in downtown Nashville, Tenn. The Tequila Cowboy is kid-friendly and offered the chance for whole families to attend.

Free items such as rally towels, Koozies and Dunker signs were handed out, and the $10 cover charge covered the cost of pizza, salad and drinks. A signed basketball was also given away to one lucky fan in a drawing. Foley said she thought the snow combined with the Racers’ successful season is what brought so many Racer fans to Nashville, Tenn., for the weekend.

“Even though we had the snowstorm, with it being sunny and everything and the great season that we’ve had, I think that this is a far bigger crowd than we’ve ever had in the past,” Foley said.

Alumni and current students packed the balcony and the bar at Tequila Cowboy as they came together to celebrate the regular season and prepare for the final game of the tournament. Murray State alumni Chris and Lacosta Hays of Murray were also celebrating their 11th wedding anniversary March 7.

“These events are great,” Lacosta said. “It’s really great to get everybody together to come kind of rally and get ready for the big game. It’s just a great experience. With lots of fun things going on in Nashville, anyways, when Murray comes to Nashville it just brings it all together and makes it that much better.”

Win or lose, many Racer fans travel to watch the tournament every year. Aimee Graves, a second-year graduate student from Murray, has attended the OVC Tournament almost every year since her first time in 2001.

“I grew up doing it,” Graves said. “My grandparents used to have season tickets back in Racer Arena, so I was kind of indoctrinated very young into being a Murray State fan, and it just kind of stuck.”

Foley said that fans, such as Graves, are what make the basketball program and the University in general so special. Gathering to reminisce the past and support the future is what events like this pregame party are all about.

“I think that as Racer Nation, we’re a community and we stick together through everything,” Foley said. “And I think that whether our team does good or bad, we’re always there to support them. I just think that the crowd at tonight’s event goes to show the commitment that the community has to supporting the University and the team.”

Story by Mallory Tucker, Sports Editor

TALK OF THE TWITTERSPHERE: SEYMOUR’S PLEA GAINS NATIONAL ATTENTION

Elizabeth Leggett March 12, 2015 Athletics, Basketball
Jenny Rohl/The News Sophomore guard Justin Seymour reacts to the Racers’ March 7 loss to Belmont.

Jenny Rohl/The News
Sophomore guard Justin Seymour reacts to the Racers’ March 7 loss to Belmont.

    “I must say congratulations to Belmont on winning the OVC conference tournament and receiving an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. I’m sure that anyone who is a true college basketball fan can appreciate the level at which we both played. I’m sure that many will agree that our game vs. Belmont was one of the best games this year. We left all we had on the court. 2nd, I’d like to congratulate my teammates on winning the OVC regular season championship. And on having the 2nd longest winning streak in men’s basketball this season with 25 consecutive wins. Proud of the fact that we put our heart and soul into accomplishing something that few have EVER done in the history of college basketball. We will carry that with us for a lifetime and no one can take that away from us (not even the NCAA.) Speaking of the NCAA…I won’t use this space to appeal to our almighty governing body as to why we should appear in the NCAA tournament. I mean, if you’ve watched us at all, that should be a no brainer. We actually earned and deserve any opportunity to participate in the NCAA tournament based on merit alone…but for some reason most of the national media have already abandoned the concept of merit and accepted the have’s vs. have not’s narrative. At around 6pm Sunday March 15, The NCAA will be given the perfect opportunity to stand on America’s core values of equality and fairness. Will the NCAA continue to speak up for the have’s while minimizing the have not’s? Will the NCAA treat us as equals or show us that we’re anything but equal? I chose to ask these questions and write my closing arguments today, a week before deliberations begin and the verdict is due.”

Editor’s Note: Some content edited for grammar.

FINDING NCAA

Elizabeth Leggett March 11, 2015 Athletics, Basketball, Slider Featured stories
Jenny Rohl/The News Sophomore point guard Cameron Payne is interviewed on-air after beating Morehead State 80-77 March 6 at Municipal Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn.

Jenny Rohl/The News
Sophomore point guard Cameron Payne is interviewed on-air after beating Morehead State 80-77 March 6 at Municipal Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn.

Men’s Basketball Head Coach Steve Prohm and his team have been making a passionate plea to the NCAA Selection Committee for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament as they prepare for Selection Sunday. Much of their lobbying has been done over social media, but the content is of the utmost importance to players, coaches and fans alike.

“It isn’t a game for me,” said sophomore guard Justin Seymour. “This is our life. We put endless time in this. I was straight business. I want to be heard about the situation and I want people to know that we are deserving of a bid.”

With #RacersDeserveABid trending on Twitter and Seymour’s series of tweets landing him a guest spot on ESPN radio with Jemele Hill and Michael Smith of ESPN’s His and Hers, the Racers refuse to be overlooked.

Fumi Nakamura/The News Head Coach Steve Prohm contests a call during the March 7 loss to Belmont at Municipal Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn.

Fumi Nakamura/The News
Head Coach Steve Prohm contests a call during the March 7 loss to Belmont at Municipal Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn.

“I basically did it for the sake of the team,” Seymour said. “I just feel like we’re getting the short end of the stick and people are overlooking what we did. We’ve won 25 games in a row. How are you just going to take that from us because of a fadeaway 3? That’s just not fair to us as a team.”

As of Tuesday night, Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology listed Murray State as third on the Next Four Out, ranking the team as the 79th pick to play into the tournament. Fans, coaches and players think the Racers are more than deserving of a bid, despite falling off both the AP and USA TODAY Coaches Polls this week. An undefeated regular conference season, a 25-game win streak and Naismith Trophy semifinalists for Player of the Year and Coach of the Year are just a few of the accolades the Racers have racked up during their 27-5 overall season.

“That’s what the committee has to sit down and say at the end of the day when they’re evaluating us,” Prohm said. “Look what they’ve done. Can the 10, 11 and 12 seeds that we’ve got – these bubble teams or these last teams in – can they do the same thing?”

Jenny Rohl/The News Junior forward Jeffery Moss dribbles during the OVC Championship game against Belmont.

Jenny Rohl/The News
Junior forward Jeffery Moss dribbles during the OVC Championship game against Belmont.

Supporters and critics alike are voicing their opinions online and on-air. College basketball analyst for ESPN, Dick Vitale, tweeted Tuesday that the Racers have a legitimate case, while CBS Sports bracket expert Jerry Palm spoke in a less positive light about Murray State on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney Monday.

“They won’t get more than about 30 seconds of discussion (from the selection committee),” Palm said. “There’s just absolutely nothing to talk about there.”

Palm, however, devoted more than 30 seconds of discussion to the Racers, adding to the media storm that has risen since their March 7 loss to Belmont. RPI rankings and strength of schedule are two main points criticizers are stating to argue against the Racers’ at-large bid, while supporters say Murray State is reminiscent of the 2006 Virginia Commonwealth University and 2011 George Mason teams, both of which advanced to the Final Four after receiving at-large bids to the tourney.

RPI rankings are just one of the tools the 10-person NCAA Selection Committee uses to make their final verdict, however. According to the NCAA’s website, it is up to the committee members to determine if the at-large teams have played their way into the tournament.

Jenny Rohl/The News Senior guard T.J. Sapp plays with his daughter outside the locker room after the Racers’ OVC Championship loss March 7.

Jenny Rohl/The News
Senior guard T.J. Sapp plays with his daughter outside the locker room after the Racers’ OVC Championship loss March 7.

“If you do your research and you’re diligent in the process, I really can’t see us not getting in,” Prohm said. “In my heart, I just can’t see it. We’ve got to stop punching numbers. You’d have never heard of Cardale Jones if they were punching numbers in football.”

The team does not plan to watch the NCAA Selection Show together when it airs Sunday at 4 p.m., but they will meet after to celebrate their selection or watch the National Invitation Tournament Selection Show together. With so much up in the air, Prohm is sure of one thing: People would love to see the story.

“You love to see it,” Prohm said. “Whether we get in and win, or whether we get in and get beat by nine or 11, or we go to the Sweet 16, it doesn’t change whether you were deserving or undeserving. We are deserving. Whether we get in or not, I don’t know.”

Story by Mallory Tucker, Sports Editor

Racer women honored at senior night

Elizabeth Leggett March 9, 2015 Athletics, Basketball

With looks of confidence on their faces, the women’s basketball team walked on the court last Saturday for its last home game against Austin Peay State.

Before beginning the team honored three seniors: forward and center Netanya Jackson, forward Chanyere Hosey and guard Keiona Kirby. Head Coach Rob Cross and Racer fans cheered for the seniors as they took the floor for their last game.

“We’re just thrilled to come out with a victory on senior night,” Cross said. “It was great to show our seniors how proud the team is and to win our last game in the arena.”

The Racers faced a tough back and forth scoring game against the Lady Govs, but Kirby scored the first eight points of the game.

“It’s been a great experience to win the senior game,” Kirby said. “It feels good to pull out a win and I feel confident.  It was an antsy game but it was a good experience and the crowd was really into it.”

According to GoRacers.com, freshman forward and guard, Ke’Shunan James led the Racers, adding 18 points to the game followed by Kirby and sophomore guard, LeAsia Wright who added 14 points.

The team was able to pull out a win in the last 30 seconds of the game the racers were up by three and with a few good free throws came out winning against the Lady Govs 72-67.

The Racers face the UT Martin Skyhawks at 4 p.m. Saturday in Martin, Tenn.

#40 Chanyere Hosey

Kalli Bubb/The News

Position: Forward

Hometown: Bollingbrook, Ill.

Height: 6 feet 1 inches

Total career points: 58

Total career rebounds: 164

Total career assists: 19

#13 Keiona Kirby

Jenny Rohl/The News

Jenny Rohl/The News

Position: Guard

Hometown: Jackson, Tenn.

Height: 5 feet 9 inches

Total career points: 471

Total career rebounds: 136

Total career assists: 52

#00 Netanya Jackson

Jenny Rohl/The News

Jenny Rohl/The News

Position: Forward/Center

Hometown: Nashville, Tenn.

Height: 6 feet 4 inches

Total career points: 116

Total career rebounds: 109

Total career assists: 11

Story by Kelsey Randolph, Assistant Sports Editor

Intramural basketball comes to end

Elizabeth Leggett March 5, 2015 Athletics, Intramurals
Nicole Ely/The News A Blue Ballers player runs for the layup.

Nicole Ely/The News A Blue Ballers player runs for the layup.

Monstars cruise in semifinal game

With 7:06 left in the game vs. the AOII Pandas, the Monstars scored two points to seal a mercy rule victory.

The Monstars, led by junior Christiane Soldo and junior Bekah Russell, took the early advantage leading by 13 at halftime. Their opponent couldn’t match up with the size of the Monstars team on offense or defense. The Monstars dominated throughout the second half as well, winning 43-12.

“Honestly, I think it was that they were bigger than us and they seemed like they may have more experience,” said sophomore AOII Panda Erica Strubhart. “Another thing is that I think we were just getting to that point in the season that we were just getting tired. We’ve been playing since January and now it’s March so I think we were just kind of getting worn down at this point.”

The sorority division was dominated by the AOII Pandas as they went undefeated during the regular season.

“We’re AOII, so it’s all about playing the sororities to us and we always like to be number one,” said sophomore Shelby Beloate, who scored half of the team’s points. “It was big for us to make it this far.”

Nicole Ely/The News A Team Lob City player throws a free throw during an intramural game.

Nicole Ely/The News A Team Lob City player throws a free throw during an intramural game.

Leading Monstar scorer, junior Bekah Russell, was active on both ends of the floor, coming up with three steals to go along with her 19 points.

“We don’t get a chance to play the sororities division, and I saw them play a game before and they looked really solid,” Russell said. “I thought they were a good team, but we came out with only five people and kept the pressure on them. Everyone gets in there and they rebound even if they are the shortest person out there.”

The most experienced player on either team was Christiane Soldo, a former Murray State women’s basketball player who put up 17 points and eight rebounds.

“I didn’t have enough time to do school work and play and be on the road and my grades were suffering,” Soldo said of her collegiate basketball career. “So I decided to quit and just get involved with school and extracurricular activities.”

After defeating the AOII Pandas, up next for the Monstars was the championship game against Hart College.

“I think we are very prepared for the final,” Russell said. “We haven’t played as many games as we would like– we’ve had to forfeit a couple of games– but every time we’ve come out we’ve played really hard and I think we are ready to go. We’re going to take it. We’re going all the way. We’re going to win and we are going to get that t-shirt, finally.”

According to IM Leagues, the Monstars were ready, taking home a 47-32 win to end the season and take home the title.

 

Story by Blake Bernier, Staff writer

Women’s basketball comes to close

Elizabeth Leggett March 5, 2015 Athletics, Basketball
Jenny Rohl/The News Freshman guard Olivia Cunningham pushes through an Austin Peay State player shoot for a two point shot on Feb. 21.

Jenny Rohl/The News Freshman guard Olivia Cunningham pushes through an Austin Peay State player shoot for a two point shot on Feb. 21.

In case you missed it, the women’s season is over, but not without records, honors and three triple digit wins.

Racer basketball may still be on for the men’s team but the women’s team has had to say goodbye to this season’s 8-21 overall season and 3-13 OVC season.

“I’m proud of the energy our team has played with and the energy in practices,” said Head Coach Rob Cross. “The season hasn’t gone the way we’d like it with all the close losses but our team has stayed in there and I think it says a lot about their character and their heart.”

The Racers preseason offered fans a good outlook for the OVC games, with eight losses and five wins, and three of those wins being triple digits, it’s conference season looked good.

Cross said the team played with energy and did a good job of playing with that energy throughout the preseason games. He said it was a team effort.

The Racers began their season on a disheartening nine-game losing streak. The first six losses were all within 10 points.

Five of those 10 games were only five points or less away from its opponent.

Kalli Bubb/The News Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville tries to rebound the ball as the Racers shoot in the paint.

Kalli Bubb/The News Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville tries to rebound the ball as the Racers shoot in the paint.

The women’s program saw it’s most points in a game against Brescia 118-50 which was the third of its triple digit wins. The first triple digit win was against Alabama A&M 102-81 and the second was against Blackburn College 110-31.

With enthusiasm from their wins the Racers entered the OVC season.

Though the team had a nine-game losing streak, it was able to break the streak on the home court against Southeast Missouri State 86-81. It wasn’t long after their win the Racers lost again which didn’t allow them to receive a bid to the OVC Championship.

The appearance of the team’s losses is misleading because while the Racers had an overall losing season, they managed to score 2,134 points as oppose to their opponents this season who scored a total of 2,205 points. While their first period overall scores were slightly lower than our opponents, the Racers tied with 1,142 points in the second period games with their opponents.

The Racers had an overall season three-point field goal average of 7.7 per game which is 1.4 more than its rivals. The women’s team also managed 13.3 assists per game versus their opponents who had an average of 15.7 assists per game.

Kalli Bubb/The News Junior forward Bianca Babic attempts to steal the ball from an Eastern Kentucky player on Jan. 22.

Kalli Bubb/The News Junior forward Bianca Babic attempts to steal the ball from an Eastern Kentucky player on Jan. 22.

Players like senior guard Keiona Kirby put up 459 points and freshman forward and guard Ke’Shunan James came in just under Kirby with 447 points.

Looking into the next season the Racers will lose three valuable players who are graduating: forward Chanyere Hosey, forward and center Netanya Jackson and Kirby

 

Story by Kelsey Randolph, Assistant Sports Editor

Racers head to OVC Championships

Elizabeth Leggett March 5, 2015 Athletics, Basketball
Jenny Rohl/The News Sophomore guard, Cameron Payne jumps for the two-point shot against Austin Peay State on Feb. 28.

Jenny Rohl/The News
Sophomore guard, Cameron Payne jumps for the two-point shot against Austin Peay State on Feb. 28.

(WITH VIDEO) – Murray State’s regular season was a whirlwind of losses at first, but redemption was soon to follow as the Racers broke record after record within both the program and the conference.

As one of only five teams in the OVC’s 67-year history to run the table and go undefeated in the conference in addition to breaking their previous OVC record of longest win streak and holding the second longest streak in the nation, the Racers were ranked for this first time this season on March 2.

Placed at No. 25 on the AP Poll and No. 24 on the USA Today Coaches Poll, the Racers are appreciative of this recognition.

“I think that the AP is great, but the coaches understand what you have to go through,” said Head Coach Steve Prohm. “Regardless of your conference affiliation, regardless of the league, they understand a little bit better how hard it is, night-in, night-out. To go 16-0 in a conference through the injuries, through the sicknesses, through the day-to-day life of college kids – student athletes – on the road, at home, the pressure to do that is a great, great achievement. I think the coaches respect that, understand that.”

As the No. 1 seed and with a double-bye, the Racers have prepared all week to play their first game of the OVC Tournament at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Municipal Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn. On Monday, the team lifted and shot around. Then focusing on their own team Tuesday and Wednesday before traveling to Nashville, Tenn. Prohm’s biggest concern throughout are that his players are enjoying the process and taking it one day at a time.

“We’ll play just trying to win the next game,” Prohm said. “We’ve got a good group. We’ve got a talented group. We can’t get caught up in, ‘hey, what happens if this, what happens if this?’ We’ve just got to go play. And if we do that, whatever happens happens.”

The taste of loss at Municipal Auditorium is still fresh in the Racers’ mouths as they fell to both Portland and Valparaiso at the Challenge in Music City earlier this season.

Almost exactly a year ago, they also faced a loss in this location to eventual OVC Tournament Champions Eastern Kentucky.

Despite the freshness of these losses and the amplitude of a possible letdown, the team itself puts all the pressure on the coaching staff.

“The coaches and my teammates in general do a good job of taking all that away from us,” senior forward Jarvis Williams said. “It’s just a motto, but to get rid of all that pressure and things of that sort, we just don’t think about it at all. The coaches, they say if we’ve got any kind of pressure to put it all on them. I really don’t feel any pressure, but I am kind of nervous about it. But when I step on that court all that will go out the window.”

As the team came together to practice for the tournament, individuals were recognized by the conference and nationally.

Sophomore point guard Cameron Payne took home OVC Player of the Year alongside Prohm who was named OVC Coach of the Year. The dynamic duo was also named to the Naismith Trophy semifinalist lists for the same awards.

Payne is ranked 13th in the nation with points per game 20.2, and ranks high in various other categories as well. At the end of the regular season, Prohm tallied 101 wins during his four seasons at Murray State.

Williams joined Payne on the OVC’s All-Conference first team, but he says earning a title in Nashville this weekend is more important to him.

“I mean, I got those accolades last year and it really didn’t change anything about me besides the fact that I got a little recognition,” Williams said. “None of that really matters to me.  I’d rather win championships and have fun collectively with my brothers.”

The season has drawn to an end, but the postseason is just beginning for the Racers. The team is focused on winning the two games in Nashville this weekend, but an at-large bid to the big dance is the end goal.

“I mean it’s a historic regular season,” Prohm said. “It’s 2015 and we’ve done two things that have never been done, ever. If we didn’t win down there and we didn’t get an at-large bid, would you be sick? No question about it. But this team knows they’ve got more work to do and they’re excited about finishing this out the right way. If we’re fortunate to win, then you move on to the next stage. This has been a special, special run. The biggest thing is let’s just see how far we can go.”

The Racers return to work tonight as they tip off at 6:30 p.m. at Municipal Auditorium in Nashville.

 

Story by Mallory Tucker, Sports Editor

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