There’s a certain irony to my previous team report on the Racers. It started with a simple definition.
Frustration (n): the feeling of being upset or annoyed, esp. because of inability to change or achieve something.
After a 71-64 loss to the Hilltoppers, I had the fans in mind, after Murray State got off to a hot start, only to falter after the first 15 minutes.
Enter tonight. Another hot start. Another loss on the road. Only the frustration doesn’t just lie with the fans anymore. It now lies squarely on the Racers shoulders themselves.
“We’ve gotten off to really good starts on the road, with the exception of a good St. Mary’s team,” head coach Steve Prohm said after the game. “We come out, we executed, we guarded. I don’t know what it is. I don’t know what it is. After we start getting fatigued, or depth, or what not. Maybe there’s things I need to look at that we need to start doing different. But we start to unravel to a little bit.”
Murray State shot just 36% from the floor, as Dayton ran away late in the second half for a 72-51 victory of over the Racers. Murray State trails by 10 points throughout the second half, and goes without a field goal in the final 5:35, leading to a final more lopsided than the game itself.
Cameron Payne led the Racers scoring with 13 points, but shoots 3-14 from the floor, including 1-6 behind the arc. T.J. Sapp‘s 12 points (on 4-14 shooting) and Jarvis Williams 10 were the only other Racers in double figures. Dyshawn Pierre and Devin Oliver paced the Flyers with a pair of double-doubles.
Rebounding, which has been a concern throughout the year, reared it’s ugly head once again. With 11:50 to play in the first half, Murray State held a 8-7 edge on the boards, and 14-10 lead on the scoreboard. The Racers were outrebounded 37-16 the rest of the way. Making matters worse, five of the Flyers 16 offensive rebounds came off missed free-throw attempts.
“We’ve got to figure out how to rebound,” Prohm said. “We’re playing small now, but we can’t play big. We only have four post guys, two that are producing at any level.”
Those two, Jonathan Fairell and Jarvis Williams helped the Racers get off to a hot start. Fairell scored the first six points of the game, and Williams slammed home a fast-break leading to a quick Dayton timeout. Fairell would be held scoreless the rest of the way, fouling out once again after 18 minutes of play. After scoring those initial eight points in the paint, Murray would only score 18 on the inside the rest of the way.
“If you look, there was no ball reversal, we were settling for quick jump shots.” Prohm said. “You saw them, they reversed the ball a couple times, and they attacked the switch. We didn’t attack the switch. We settled for jump shots, and when we got to the rim with our guards, we didn’t finish.”
A three-pointer by Jeffrey Moss gave the Racers a 17-14 lead with 9:31 to play in the half, but from there the almost predictable first-half slump was on. Dayton went on a 20-4 run over the next 8:20, to take a 12-point lead. Only a pair of Sapp layups, including one as the buzzer expired, cut the deficit to double-digits heading into the locker room.
The Murray State offense started the second half much like the first, hitting their first three shots of the half. But on the defensive end, the Racers couldn’t get stops, and never were able to get any closer than six. After a jumper by Williams cut the lead to 42-36, Dayton went on another run, 12-3 over the next 7:21, taking a 54-39 lead. The lead remained double-digits the rest of the way.
But it was in the last few minutes of the game where the frustration especially showed. Head coach Steve Prohm was called for a technical foul with 1:33 to go, after complaining about a no-call on what he felt was a travel. Sapp would be called as part of a double-technical with :46 to go, after challenging a run-out by Dayton’s Kyle Davis.
“I talked to our guys,” Prohm said. “Our program has been known for 4-5 years as being the toughest, high-character, work their tails off program. And those things we don’t have right now, the toughness, we have to get it back.”
“I can’t get that technical,” he added.
In a lot of ways, today has to be seen as more of the same, both good and bad. Cameron Payne and T.J. Sapp show flashes of great play, but have to be more effective than a combined 7-28 from the floor. Dayton’s size had some effect, to be sure, but many fall on their shoulders. Jonathan Fairell is a solid contributor but still can’t play more than 20 minutes because of foul trouble.
Conference play starts off with a might challenge with Western Division co-favorite Southeast Missouri, so things aren’t getting much easier any time soon for Murray State.