Today, All-American point guard Isaiah Canaan was left off the list of 12 finalists for the Cousy Award, which goes to the top point guard in the nation. Tonight, he showed everyone once again why he’s one of the best in college basketball.
A signature step-back three from the wing put the Racers ahead in the final minute, as Murray State held off a furious late rally with a 79-74 victory over Belmont, handing the Bruins their first conference loss of the season.
The Racers, which have struggled early in games recently, shot 44% tonight in the opening 20 minutes. Murray State used a 12-2 run to take a 14-8 lead with 14 minutes in the first half, and would continue to stretch the lead. Murray State shot 6-9 from behind the arc in the opening half, ending a 9-56 slump of 9-56 in their previous three games. The paint and glass were just as friendly to the Racers who used their size advantage, from the tip: Their first points came after 4, yes 4, offensive rebounds.
Stacy Wilson provided the spark early, scoring 12 of his 16 points in the opening 20 minutes. Murray State controlled the tempo from the tip, mixing it up between quick points and running half court sets with the help of freshmen C.J. Ford.
The Bruins got off slow to a slow start, and as we’ve seen a few times in the past, struggled from behind the arc, going 3-10 despite getting many wide open looks. The Bruins problems were compounded when Ian Clark got in early foul trouble, picking up two fould with over five minutes left in the half. J.J. Mann did his part to keep the Bruins in game in the opening 20, scoring 8 points with two triples.
After a first half dominated by Murray State, tthe second half saw the battle we all expected.
Bruins came out of the gates on a small 6-0 run facilitated by rebounds and speeding up the game. But the run wouldn’t last, with Dexter Fields hitting two huge corner threes to halt momentum by the Bruins. The Racers would then go on a 7-0 run midway through the first half to push the lead to 15.
The lead would stay in double digits for much of the second half, and it appears Murray State was going to coast to a victory.
Not a chance.
Down 15 in the final six minutes, the Bruins went on a 7-0 run capped off by a three from Brandon Baker to make it 67-60 with 3:36 remaining.
After Murray State pushed the lead back to 10, the Bruins would make one last push with a three from Baker to bring the game back with in seven. On the Racers inbound attempt, Reese Chamberlain would get a steal off the pass, and find Clark for a three to make it 70-66 with under 3 minutes left.
Murray’s lead would remain two possessions, leading by six with 1:13 left, until another three from Clark brought the Bruins back within three for the first time since the first half. After a steal from the Bruins, Clark would pull up from about 25-feet, and tie the game at 74.
The Racers, as they’ve done so often in this situation before, gave the ball to their All-American point guard. And he reminded us how he earned that title. Coming off a screen, Canaan hits the huge step back three from the wing, putting the Racers back on top with :35 seconds remaining.
On the ensuing possession Clark would turn it over, ending the chance of a come from behind win in Rick Byrd’s 1000th game.