“I’m just so sick right now just because‑‑ just reliving the last seven minutes,” Murray State head coach Steve Prohm said. That pause in the middle was just a second, two most, but for the first year head coach, experiencing only his second loss at the helm, I bet it felt like 30.
I can’t even imagine how slowly those last seven minutes passed by for Prohm and the players, as the Racers watched a 5 point lead evaporate, as the Racers faded at the worst possible moment.
” I told them in the locker room that I just‑‑ I wish I could have figured out a way to get them through the last seven minutes.”
As great as their defense had been tonight. As great as their defense had been all season, it simply couldn’t bail them out when their offense simply failed them.
When it came down to it, the Racers couldn’t get enough points.
That may sound like an oversimplification, but I truly can’t imagine asking any more out of the Racers defense than they got against the caliber of team Marquette is.
I sure can’t ask any more out of senior Ed Daniel, whose ended the season with what I believe was his best performance in his college career.
“We proved today that we belong”
…which should have never been in question. But it was, because the Racers dared lose after 23 straight wins on February 9th. The Racers were done little favors by many, including the NCAA Selection Committee, who put the Racers in a bracket with a very good 3-seeded Marquette.
The Racers went out and earned every accolade they were given this year.
They had to. Because no one was going to hand this team from the Ohio Valley Conference anything on a silver platter.
The Last 7 Minutes – 6 points, 5 turnovers
The Racers offensive efficiency on the season was 1.091, 19th best in the nation. That means they scored an average of 1.091 points on every possession.
Just not lately.
In 4 of their last 5 games, they only had that number over 1.091 once, in their tournament game against Tennessee Tech, and that was just barely. Down the stretch their offense simply didn’t perform as well as it had. Their 3-point percentage was down. Junior guard and legitimate All-America candidate Isaiah Canaan was taking more shots, with worse results. Defensively, not much changed.
I remember earlier this year, Prohm said something along of the lines that he doesn’t focus on creating a complex offense. And you can’t exactly fault him for that when you look at how well they were performing on the offensive side of the basketball for so much of the season.
But when they needed points late in this game, they had 0 solutions. No set plays to run, no way to get Canaan open since Marquette had been smothering him on every screen. It was give Canaan the ball near mid-court, have Daniel set a screen (or at least move to the top of the key to consider setting a screen) and hopefully something good would happen.
And it didn’t.
They found no love in the paint, where they consistently turned the ball over down the stretch. When they could hold onto the ball when the defense collapsed, the Racers could find the open shooter, but the 3-point shot had long betrayed them.
And I don’t just mean here in Louisville. In Nashville too. The last time the Racers hit better than 33% from 3-point range in a game? February 23rd, in their rematch against Tennessee State. This wasn’t just a cold game.
Prohm said multiple times in the post game press conference he was going to go back and look at tape to see what happened in the last 7 minutes.
They allowed a few more easy baskets then they had should, as Marquette was able to spread the Racers out, and get a drive or open pass into the lane.
But you can’t fault the defense. Not when they held Marquette, a team almost equal in offensive efficiency to the Racers, to just .861 points a possession, a phenomenal number.
And I think that Prohm should be very proud of that. He built this team on defense, just like his predecessor Billy Kennedy did, and it performed amazingly.
But this isn’t a game that be one solely on one half of the court. At least, not against competition like Marquette.
Canaan struggles, but Daniel shines
When looking at the Racers, everyone mentions how Canaan is just a junior.
So is Daniel. And if he can perform like this more as a senior, he’s on his way to being the most dominant big man in the OVC.
Stat wise, Daniel finished with 6 points, 14 rebounds, and 2 blocks.
Those 14 rebounds were one more than heralded forward Jae Crowder pulled down. In fact, Crowder, who was one of the top 10 rebounders in the Big East, only pulled down 2 offensive rebounds. Daniel? 6.
And those 2 blocks? They came within 60 seconds on one another, and both were absolutely amazing.
Don’t get me wrong, this will be Isaiah’s team next year. But he wasn’t the Racer trending on Twitter during the game.
It was Daniel.
Who just had the game of his life. I really hope it’s not forgotten because the Racers lost.
Quote of the Night (…So Far)
“You fight all year to get to this point. We just fought through so much adversity, injuries, critics, media. I think we went through everything, and we battled through it. And together as a team, we conquered it. ” – Donte Poole
Ending on Good Notes
32-2. That’s what will be remembered. Not this loss.