[The Score] Murray State 87, Austin Peay 75
[The Stat Lines] Murray St.: Isaiah Canaan 35 points, 5 assists
Murray St.: Ed Daniel 19 points, 11 rebounds
Austin Peay: John Fraley 10 points, 9 rebounds
[The Story] The tired line is that when rivals meet, you throw out all the records. Games like this are why that saying exists.
Austin Peay took Murray State’s best shot in the first half, and managed to weather the storm. And the source of the storm: Isaiah Canaan. The Racers guard hit 7-7 from 3-point range, scoring 27 points before the half. The Governors were able to stay in the game thanks to just 5 turnovers, and pulling down 6 offensive rebounds against a Racers team sorely missing Ivan Aska under the basket.
In the second, Austin Peay made the adjustment, holding Canaan to 0 field goals and just 6 points, all from the free throw line. But as Murray State has done all season long, when one player is stopped, other step up. Donte Poole hit 2 big 3’s, and it was Ed Daniel with big rebounds and free throws down the stretch, scoring 15 of his 19 points in the second half, and finishing with a double-double.
For the Governors, Melvin Baker, and John Fraley made life hard on the Racers interior, combining for 24 points on 11-18 shooting, and also combining for 16 rebounds. But poor shooting, especially down the stretch, doomed the Governors, as they fall to 0-3 on the season.
The Governors got back within a basket on multiple occasions, but trailed the entire final 39:23 of the game.
[Murray State] The Racers just survived what is likely the toughest week they’ll face all season with their undefeated season in tact. Ivan Aska is out, and his presence was missed underneath the basket, with the Governors pulling in 13 offensive rebounds.
But that’s about where the bad ends for the Racers. Despite those rebounds, Austin Peay only scores 30 points in the paint, the same as the Racers, and only 10 2nd chance points, less than the Racers 12.
I can’t say enough about the play of Daniel down the stretch for the Racers, who was instrumental in sealing the win. Canaan provided the spark in the first, and stole many of the highlights, but Daniel made many tough rebounds down the stretch, and went 5-7 from the free throw line. It’s not the kind of performance that’s likely to make SportsCenter, but it’s the kind of performance that helps lead your team to 16-0.
A lot of people are already talking about pressure, and how will the Racers handle the pressure of being undefeated as the streak continues to grow. In the big games this year, that’s when the Racers have played their best. It wasn’t perfect, but leading for most of the game on the road against a conference rival? That’s pretty good.
[Austin Peay] Why did it take 20 minutes to adjust to Canaan? Seriously? After the second time he dribbled up the court and just pulled up for 3, right then and there the defense should have been changed. If they could have held him to, I dunno, just 15 points in the first half, they would likely have led at the break, and then it’s a whole new game.
But this isn’t a team that’s playing their way out of the OVC. They’re finishing a killer 2 weeks, taking the Death Valley road swing and hosting undefeated Murray State. They didn’t survive it, but watching this team tonight, it’s hard not seeing them win 10 games in the OVC. And yes, I realize that means that have to go 10-3 at worse to finish the season.
The Governors answered most every Murray State run with one of their own. They played tough throughout, but simply came across a hot Isaiah Canaan and one of the most talented teams the OVC has ever seen. The conference title is likely out of the question, but the goal in the OVC is always to win the conference tournament: that’s what gets you into the NCAA tournament. They’re still in contention for a bye in Nashville, and then you never know what could happen.
[They Said it…] “I thought the effort was good. The basketball, not so much.” -Austin Peay head coach Dave Loos
“Biggest win we had all year, not because it’s a rivalry, the rivalry’s great; it’s a road conference win. We’re 4-0 in the league, that’s why it’s the biggest win of the season.” – Murray State head coach Steve Prohm.
[Final Thoughts] Murray State is one win away from their best start in history. And just 66 miles away from Clarksville, as ESPNU was sure to remind the viewers, oh, about 3,401 times during the game. And I get that Murray State doesn’t want that to be the talking point, much like they don’t want their undefeated season, or their No. 19/18 ranking to be the talking point. But as much as they try to talk about winning the OVC, and looking ahead to their next game, that is the story coming out of Murray right now. And it’s not going away, and I know head coach Steve Prohm knows that, although if we all forgot about it for a week, he would probably appreciate it. (Not happening, coach!)
I, and many other around the league, keep saying “look out for Austin Peay” with absolutely no evidence once so ever to support our collective hypothesis that the Governors will make a run in the conference, except for that’s the only thing Austin Peay has ever done. Yet I still feel it will happen. This is a disappointing season for the Clarksville faithful, but this is far from a bad team. Instead, they’re one that’s had a few unlucky breaks, including the OVC scheduling to start off the year. And I know I’ve said it over and over, that we’re past the point of making scheduling excuses, and we are. I’m not saying the schedule makes being 0-3 in the OVC okay. I’m saying don’t be surprised if they are 11-5 heading into Nashville in March.