Frustration (n): the feeling of being upset or annoyed, esp. because of inability to change or achieve something.
Never has their been a word so appropriate to describe a college basketball team. Murray State isn’t without talent. They’re not without skill, and speed, and athleticism. But there’s something missing, some intangible, that can’t be pointed to on stat sheets or in box scores.
But despite the frustration, the feeling that this Racers team can’t get out of their own way, there’s also encouragement. You feel they have the coach, they have the players, and now they just need to put it all together.
Never was this dichotomy more evident than today inside Diddle Arena.
Murray State opened up a fourteen-point first half lead, before free-throws, rebounding, and unforced turnovers tore it all apart. The Hilltoppers limit the Racers to just 21 second-half field goal attempts, on their way to a 71-64 win over their rivals.
The game wasn’t without bright spots for Murray. T.J. Sapp, in his second game in Murray’s gold and blue, scored a game high 25-points, and remained perfect from the free-throw line on the season. Jarvis Williams added 24 points on 9-11 shooting from the field. In the end, it wasn’t enough to overcome T.J. Price‘s 15 second-half points, after being held scoreless in the first, just one of four Hilltoppers in double figures.
It’s clear Sapp isn’t long for coming off the bench, just as Jonathan Fairell isn’t long for the starting lineup. Fairell struggled with fouls again, fouling out after just 12 minutes of action, and missed all four free-throw attempts. After the game, Murray State head coach Steve Prohm said the Racers could move to a four-guard starting lineup, (which played the majority of tonight) almost certainly reducing Fairell’s role.
But the biggest issue for the Racers wasn’t turnovers or even free-throws. It was rebounding. The Hilltoppers pulled down 18 offensive rebounds, 11 in their second half rally, extending possession after possession. One rebound, with 9:41 to go, led to a T.J. Price three, giving the Toppers their first lead since 6-5. Murray State would take the lead back on the next possession with a Cameron Payne jumper. It would be their last lead of the game.
Despite the negativity of the result, Prohm was mostly positive after the game, and there’s good reason to be. The first 10 minutes of the game shows us what the Racers are capable of, even if they couldn’t make it last for 40 minutes. This is a young team, after all, words we’re going to be reminded of quite often throughout the season.
Murray State is back under .500, something not seen in many years in the land of the Racers. But this is far from a bad team. Tonight, they showed us, again, how good they can be. Now the challenging part comes: living up to their potential.
Else, that frustration could bubble over into something much worse.