For Murray State, it’s their 13th win in as many games.
For the Skyhawks, it’s their 11th loss in 14 games.
The haves and have nots in the OVC might be farther apart than ever.
To put it mildly, the No. 22 Racers cruise to a 78-54 win over the Skyhawks, in a game even more dominant than the score may show. That shouldn’t really surprise anyone that’s seen both teams this season. (or scores from both teams)
But what the score doesn’t show: Murray didn’t play their best basketball tonight.
You didn’t read that wrong. The Racers, who shot 68% from the field, 44% from 3-point range, got to the free throw line 27 times, outrebounded the Skyhawks 35-24, and had 7 assists from Isaiah Canaan were, at times, somewhat stoic. That’s not to say they were bad, anything but actually, but simply that tonight’s performance wasn’t one of their most dominant.
You see it when you notice the Racers 24 turnovers. And part of that comes from playing as deep into the bench as we’ve seen head coach Steve Prohm ever go.
But UT Martin showed up. At times, they even played better than in their loss on Sunday, a fact that head coach Jason James agreed with. In fact, there’s nothing especially bad about this perfomance from the Skyhawks.
UTM got off to a bad start. Happens almost every game.
Mike Liabo and Myles Taylor take the majority of the Skyhawks shots from the floor. Happens almost every game.
This was just another game from the Skyhawks, just like this was another game from the Racers. And that’s really what tonight’s game shows. UTM is likely not the worst team in the OVC, and yet fell far short of the Racers in just about every category imaginable.
It won’t be the only time this year.
In fact, it may be just be the first of many.
The OVC has been a “have and have nots” kind of conference for years, and Murray is usually in the “haves” and Martin usually in the “have nots.” But never to this extent. At times, these two teams tonight didn’t even look like they belonged on the same floor. And that’s not a (complete) slam on Martin. They’re not the only OVC team that’s going to fall well short of the Racers. In fact, I would wager that Murray will win more conference games by 20 than they will by 10 or less.
For better or worse, that’s the state of the OVC this year.
Get used to it. Because it’s not changing.
If you’re a Skyhawks fan, you can take this from tonight’s game: The Skyhawks haven’t given up. In a way this team reminds me of the Indianapolis Colts this year, and before you start throwing things at your computer screen, let me make the comparison.
Last season, Terrance Smith was a huge part of this team. He was essential to what the Skyhawks wanted to do, especially on the offensive side of the basketball. And with him out, the team doesn’t have that identity.
Mike Liabo isn’t going to run the offense like Smith would. James is trying to mold him, but it’s just not his nature to be that type of player. He’s simply playing a role he’s not used to, one he, or James, ever thought he’d have to run as long as Smith was a part of the team.
But will they figure it out, and if so, when? That’s the biggest question facing the Skyhawks right now, one that doesn’t have a true answer.
On the other side, Murray State is one win away from entering 2012 undefeated. But here’s my question, one I asked to Coach Prohm: Where is this team improving?
It sounds like a stupid question, but for the Racers to stay undefeated, they must continue to improve, or at the very least, not regress. Tonight, they didn’t play like the Murray State team we expect to see. And there are “reasonable” excuses: Christmas break for the players on the horizon, quick run put this game pretty much out of reach early, and the bench players got a lot of minutes. I’m not saying we have to see the Racers squad that beat Memphis game in and game out. Nor am I saying that Murray played a “bad” game. Just if the win at Memphis was a 10, tonight’s game was a 7.
Prohm has seen improvement in the play of many of his players (Daniel, Mushatt, Jackson were 3 of many he mentioned by name) and in his team transition defense, and I wholly agree with both those points.
But, if you’re a fan watching the game, where do you think Murray has to improve?
It’s not an easy question in the least.
And this all goes back to the state of the OVC. Every team is looking for way to improve at this point in the season, obviously. But whereas some teams (the Skyhawks) are looking to improve just to compete with the big dogs, other teams (the Racers) are looking to improve to widen the gap even more.
And it’s much easier to improve when your players are more talented.
Am I saying the Racers players are more talented than the Skyhawks.
No. Tonight’s game is saying it. It was clear from tip off.
And that’s not a slam against the Skyhawks. Because when you compare Murray to the OVC, you’re simply going to find their players are more talented than most every other team.
Doesn’t mean the Racers will go undefeated. Doesn’t mean the Racers should go undefeated.
It is simply how things are this season in the OVC.