I’m not usually much of a milestone guy, but this one is fairly impressive. Murray State becomes the first team in the Ohio Valley Conference to 600 conference wins, in a 73-62 win over UT Martin. The Racers win total is well above the rest of the conference, with Eastern Kentucky second, (459) Morehead State third, (438) and Tennessee Tech fourth. (428)
After a slow and sloppy start by both teams, Murray State jumped out to a 15-4 advantage in the first seven plus minutes of the first half, behind nine early points from guard Isaiah Canaan. The Skyhawks whittled at the lead when Canaan went to the bench with two fouls with 9:06 to play in the half, but never got closer than six before Stacy Wilson led a Murray run pushing the lead to 18. The game never got back to single digits, as a late push by UT Martin made the final score seem much closer than the rest of the game.
A big story line out of tonight’s game was the return of Racers forward LaTreze Mushatt. The senior played just seven minutes down the stretch, going 0-2 from the field, having one basket negated by a charging call. Canaan led the Racers with 18 points in just 16 minutes of play, but was seen visibly limping during part of the second half. The preseason All-American has been dealing with an injury to the arch of his right foot, which has kept the senior out of practice two days this past week. Ed Daniel was one point shy of a double-double, but his game-high 11 rebounds marks the eighth double-digit rebound night for the senior.
UT Martin was led by 12 points from Mike Liabo, who had one of his better shooting nights of the season, in a 5-7 effort from the field. Myles Taylor was kept in check for most of the night, scoring nine of his 11 points in the last 10 minutes of the game, when the outcome was already well in hand. Terence Smith also finished in double figures despite shooting just 2-9 from the field.
For Murray State, the win was much needed to get the Racers back on track, coming off back-to-back losses for the first time since the end of the 2010-11 season. It was also a great chance to get more experience for the freshman, many of who had one of their better nights of the season. Jeffrey Moss scored a career high 14 points, as the Murray State bench scored 26 points as a team; If not a season high, that total must be close.
After blasting his team’s effort in a loss Monday to Jacksonville State, UT Martin head coach Jason James was more pleased with his team tonight. “I thought overall our effort was good,” James said. “This effort tonight would have won a couple of our previous games. This is the kind of effort we need to duplicate, we just need to get better at executing.”
The Racers have a battle for the top spot in the West Division on Saturday, facing the only other West Division team without a conference loss, Southeast Missouri. UT Martin will continue their quest for the first conference win in over a year when they host Austin Peay.