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Basketball games are called strong words like “battles,” and “fight” quite often.

I’m not sure either of those words, or any words really, are really strong enough to describe what transpired tonight.

It was simply one of the best basketball games I’ve ever witnessed in person.  There were runs, big shots, and athletic plays all around the court. And it was won on a fantastic final shot in the closing seconds, by a senior sporting a bandage on his chin, and soon after a big grin on his face.

For all the rightfully deserved focus that teammate Ian Clark has earned this season, it was Belmont’s Kerron Johnson that would come through in not one, but two times of need.

It started in regulation. After Ed Daniel misses two crucial free throws in the final 20 seconds to keep the Bruins behind two, Johnson hit a fade-away jumper over Daniel from 12-feet with nine seconds to go, a shot that would ultimately force overtime.

Five minutes later, he would hit the same shot again. Only this time, it was with :01.2 seconds on the clock. And it didn’t tie the game.

It won it.

“You always talk about when you’re shooting, having that spot on the floor where you’re most comfortable,” Johnson said. “Those two shots were right in that same area and I’m really comfortable from that area and that range, whether it be a floater or pullup. I knew if I could get to that range I was pretty confident it was going down.”

“All you have to do is raise up and knock it down,” he added.

Johnson’s words came in his own private press conference. Head coach Rick Byrd and the rest of the seniors sat down in front of the media without the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament MVP. Why? He was busy getting four stitches in his chin.

Just don’t expect Johnson to keep the bandage, like a certain bloody sock that will live in baseball infamy.

“I was eyes closed. They wanted to take pictures, I didn’t even want to see it,” Johnson said about getting his stitches. “I’m queasy when it comes to that.”

 

A terrible end(?) to a terrific collegiate career

Trying to describe what Murray State point guard Isaiah Canaan has meant to his team not only this year, but his entire career is as challenging an endeavor as describing tonight’s game.

Tonight, the future NBAer was one rebound away from a triple-double. But with 25 seconds to go in a tie game in overtime, the All-American guard made a gut-wrenching mistake. He dribbled the ball off his leg, and watched helplessly as it went into the back court, for the Racers 26th turnovers of the night.

“It was a mistake on my part.” Cannan said afterwords. “I was dribbling it like regular, but I guess my foot was in the way and it rolled off my foot.”

 

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No words are needed here to describe how Isaiah Canaan and the Racers feel after a heartbreaking loss 

Long delay mars end of regulation

The OVC has provided an explanation of exactly what caused the lengthy delay, but it’s far from easing the minds of many Racers fans. After Johnson hit the fadeaway to tie the game at the end of regulation, a lengthy officials timeout ensued, correcting a timing error and giving the Racers the ball in front of Belmont’s bench. But that’s not where Murray State head coach Steve Prohm thought his team was getting the ball.

“Let’s just move on from that play. I didn’t listen correctly,” Prohm said, clearly struggling to find the right words to say. “I’ll just take the blame on that. I didn’t listen correctly and looking back I should have just gotten the ball across half court and called a timeout and run one of our last second plays. ”

What was run was far from what was intended. The Racers could never get the ball into the hands of their co-OVC player of the year, or even senior guard Stacy Wilson, who had bailed the Racers out with a huge three as the shot clock was expiring minutes before. Instead, forward Latreze Mushatt took a rare three that fell short as the buzzer sounded.

“We didn’t want [Cannan] to touch the ball,” Byrd said of his team’s defense on the final possession. “That guy can get his own shot better than anybody, one of the best in the country at really getting his own shot.”

 

What’s Next

The OVC will be a one-bid conference once again into the NCAA Tournament, but for the second straight year they’re sending a team that’s going to be a relatively high seed.

“I think, first of all, we don’t know what’s going to go on from now until Selection Sunday and that will impact our seed without a question,” Byrd said after the win. “But I think the best thing is to trust those guys to get in there and do the best they can. It wouldn’t matter if you had the 12 Apostles in there doing it, somebody would be really upset about the outcome.”

“I don’t know but I suspect we’ve got a fighting chance at an 11 or 12,” he added.

Honestly, I think the Bruins have a solid chance at an even better seed. Sure, bracketologists aren’t high on the Bruins, but many weren’t high on the Racers last year either.

During the NCAA’s mock selection for media, Belmont was placed as an 8-seed. While that may be on the high end, is a 9 or 10 really out of the question?


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  1. SEMOfan1:
    Kind of a shame to see less than 5000 fans. Murray travels well and Belmont is in Nashville. I guess surprised is a better word to use that more fans weren't there.
    • ovcball:
      $30 tickets don't help.
  2. Racer11:
    I want to know how no one is talking about the no travel/timeout call in OT. I've watched it numerous times on replay, looked at the rule, and still am scratching my head. Granted all it did was rob the Racers of an extra possesion, one that we obviously needed.
    • ovcball:
      Sliding is not an automatic travel. A lot of people smarter than I when it comes to college basketball rules looked at the play and agreed the refs made the right call.
      • Racer11:
        I've looked at the rule and the refs did not make the right call. Yes the player is permitted to slide, however when he comes to a stop the rule says 'the player' must: pass, shoot, dribble, or call a timeout. The player did none of the above before rolling over which in the definition is a travel. The reason I point out that it has to be 'the player' is because, like in golf, it has to be that individual in question, no one else. So when the coach/bench called timeout and was awarded the timeout the rule was circumvented. The bigger issue is that OVC officiating as a whole is a joke and when it happens in front of a national audience, it puts a black eye on the league.
        • ovcball:
          Let me be brutally honest...Racer fans: You need to drop it. Seriously. It's been two weeks. Get over it. Move on. There are 20 other things in that game that could have won the game. And I still argue they got the call right, especially since the player called the timeout, as you pointed out as part of the rule. And OVC officiating isn't that bad. How do I know? Watch other games. They miss "simple" calls. They take forever on reviews. This is an overall issue with the rules, not individual refs. (There were more than a handful of issues during yesterday's NCAA Tournament games.) There's being upset about losses, and being sore losers, and there are quite a few hovering much more towards the latter. The time to moan about what happened in the OVC Championship game has passed.
OVC Ball
Compiling all OVC non-conference games

2016 Football Standings

OVC Overall
Jacksonville State 7-0 10-2
UT Martin 6-2 7-5
Tennessee Tech 5-3 5-6
Tennessee State 4-3 7-4
Eastern Illinois 4-4 6-5
Murray State 4-4 4-7
SEMO 3-5 3-8
Eastern Kentucky 2-6 3-8
Austin Peay 0-8 0-11


2016-17 Basketball Standings

OVC Overall

EAST

Belmont 15-1 23-7
Morehead State 10-6 14-16
Jacksonville State 9-7 20-15
Tennessee State 8-8 17-13
Tennessee Tech 8-8 12-20
Eastern Kentucky 5-11 12-19

WEST

UT Martin 10-6 22-13
SEMO 9-7 15-18
Murray State 8-8 16-17
Austin Peay 7-9 11-19
Eastern Illinois 6-10 14-15
SIUE 1-15 6-24


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