After a seven year break, the renewal of the Murray State and Southern Illinois Rivalry ended in a 73-65 Racers victory at the CFSB Center in Murray, Ky. Murray State was led by freshman guard Cameron Payne, the Racers overcame 10 first half turnovers to defeat their rival.
The game saw the return of Racers’ forward Zay Henderson who played four minutes in the game and had no points and rebounds. The star of the game was the Racers’ newest guard, Clemson transfer T.J. Sapp. Sapp in his first game as a Racer finished with 15 points in 17 minutes off the bench. Payne was a tale of two halves, scoring only three points on one of six shooting. In the second half, Payne turned it on shooting 6-12 from the field and 3-5 from behind the arc.
Southern Illinois’ defense was able to turn the Racers over 10 times in the opening half but second half shooting woes coupled with foul trouble ended the Salukis three-game winning over Murray State. Leading scorer Desmar Jackson who averaged 20 points of a game, and scored 29 against Austin Peay, led the Salukis with 28points on 9-18 shooting. Behind Jackson the Salukis didn’t have much help with the rest of the team shooting 11 of 34.
Murray State opened the game with defensive intensity starting off the game on a 6-0 run with back-to-back dunks by forward Jarvis Williams forcing Salukis Head Coach Barry Hinson to call his first timeout. Out of the Southern Illinois timeout, Murray State wouldn’t score for nearly five minutes as Dexter Fields buried a three from the wing to expand the lead to five. The Racers struggled after the SIU timeout, with the Racers committing eight turnovers in the game’s first nine minutes.
The Salukis took advantage of the Murray State turnovers taking their first lead after a Racer turnover on an in-bound pass led to a breakaway layup and foul for forward Bronson Verhines made the score 10-9. The Racers regained their focus thanks to their newest addition to the team, Sapp who provided nine points in a span of three minutes to give the Racers a 23-16 lead at the third media timeout.
With the Racers up 27-20, the Salukis answered the Racers run by driving to the basket and getting the Racers in serious foul trouble (four Racers with two fouls at halftime) to cut the deficit to just one. Feeding the Saluki run was a stretch of six minutes where the Racers’ only points came from the free throw line until Payne hit a 3-point shot with two minutes in the half making it 30-26. Salukis Jackson penetrated the Racers defense in the final seconds to bring the halftime score to 33-30.
The second half began with the Racers storming out ton a 12-4 run to push their lead to 45-34 with Sapp coming off the bench to spark the run. Sapp took over pushing the Racers lead to double-digits for the first time with a layup plus the and-one. With the double-digit lead in hand, the Racers maintained it for the rest of the game. The second half was marred by fouls as the Racers were into the bonus just six minutes into the half and in the double bonus the final six minutes. The Racers took advantage at the line in the second half hitting () of (). With the Racers lead at 10, Payne took over the scoring role draining back-to-back 3’s to push the lead to Murray State’s largest of the night at 59-43. Payne scored () of his team-high () points in the final 20 minutes.
While Sapp led the team in scoring he added much more. The junior guard adds depth, leadership and the ability to hit from the charity stripe (something the Racers desperately had needed behind Moss). Sapp on his first two possessions in the second half got a steal and assist and then followed up the performance by drawing a charge causing Southern Illinois to call a timeout.
What was troubling in the first half especially was the turnovers by the Racers. The Racers had eight in the first nine minutes, and 10 in the first half. The majority came from the half court offense Murray State committing them on their own. The Racers finished the game with 18 turnovers, eight of which were not committed by SIU.
Murray State is back at .500, and on a three game winning streak. The Racers will be tested on the road, somewhere they haven’t won all season, when the team takes on rival Western Kentucky.