It was far from the most interesting game to watch. 41 fouls and 31 turnovers contribute to a disjointed game, but lost under all the whistles and stoppages was one of the Racers best defensive efforts of the season.
Murray State holds Tennessee State to 29% shooting from the field, as the Racers pull away late to a 69-48 win over the Tigers. The win comes one year to the day of TSU beating Murray State in the CFSB Center, ending Murray’s State’s perfect season.
We guarded the perimeter well,” senior forward Latreze Mushatt said. “They have four starters that I think average in the double digits and we just focused on getting them to one shot only. I think they got a lot of offensive rebounds, but we just held them and guarded the perimeter well. We knew they all could shoot and we just focused on that, and I guess we did a great job out there.”
The Racers defense was especially solid in the first half. Tennessee State shot just 7-31 (22.6%) and got just four points in the paint during the half. Ed Daniel was a force inside for the Murray State, earning a career high six blocks on the night. Even when he didn’t alter shots, Daniel was able to keep the Tigers out of the paint consistently even with the Tigers were able to get the ball to a man on the low block.
Tennessee State tried to make the most of their misses, pulling down 11 offensive rebounds in each half. But the Tigers only converted their 11 in the first twenty minutes to two second-chance points.
“If you want to look for a negative tonight,” Murray State head coach Steve Prohm said, “Tennessee State kicked our tails on the glass.”
Despite the struggles rebounding, Daniel and forward Brandon Garrett both inked double-doubles on the night, the first time since 2009 two Racers had double-doubles on the same night.
Tennessee State’s 48 points were the fewest the Tigers have scored since 2007, when they scored 44 in a loss to Austin Peay. Despite trailing for most of the game, Tennessee State pulled within a single bucket, 42-40 midway through the second half, and had multiple chances to tie or take the lead, but committed three straight turnovers. TSU would score just eight points down the stretch, as Murray State pulled out to a comfortable win.
If there’s any doubt remaining about the Racers being an OVC Tournament contender, it should have gone out the window this week. Murray State earned two high quality wins at home, not only in who they beat, but the fashion in which they earned both those wins. Murray State appears to be peaking at the right time, and while it may be too late for another regular season OVC title, the much more important tournament title looks like a real possibility, although the Racers will still likely need to beat the Bruins in Nashville, just not in Belmont’s arena.
Tennessee State is still getting healthy, as Robert Covington continues to get back to full strength. The deeper concern now is an injury in the first half to forward M.J. Rhett. It appeared to be some sort of injury to his shoulder, and we should know more in the days to come. Losing him just a week after Covington’s return would be a huge blow to the Tigers.
Murray State hits the road for the Illinois road swing, traveling to SIU Edwardsville (8-13, 4-7) and Eastern Illinois. (7-18, 4-8) Tennessee State has only one game next week, hosting OVC leader Belmont (20-5, 11-1) in an ESPNU game on Thursday.