On a weekend where chaos was abound, things were rather calm in the CFSB Center. Behind a trio of 20-point performances, Murray State topped UT Martin 91-77 in a game the Racers nearly led wire-to-wire.
Freshman Cameron Payne scored a career-high 27 points of 8-13 shooting from the floor, hitting six of ten from behind the arc. Jeffrey Moss tied Murray State record, hitting 14-14 from the free-throw line, and Jarvis Williams went 7-9 from the field, scoring 20 and pulling down 15 rebounds.
After falling behind by as much as 14 in the first half, UT Martin had their chances to draw close. But a poor shooting night, coupled with being outrebounded 40-23 proved to much to overcome. Terence Smith led four Skyhawks players in double figures with 19 points. Myles Taylor finished with 15, despite being held to just three in the first half.
If there’s anything we’ve learned from this weekend, it’s that nothing is automatic, and Murray State was able to control the game for the most part from the tip. They had an answer for every Skyhawks run, and only once did you really feel UT Martin might make it a game.
While surviving the weekend is good enough, looking ahead to Eastern Kentucky, the Racers inability to handle the press towards the end of the first half is somewhat worrysome, but head coach Steve Prohm believes the problems are easily fixable. “The last two days, all we did is press offense,” Prohm said. “If you go back and watch tape, and see the decision making we did, it wasn’t getting over-handled with pressure.”
On the positive side, Murray State’s domination on the glass for the second straight game is highly encouraging, given the weakness inside among title contenders EKU and Belmont.
“We’ve rebounded well, and we’ve won the rebounding battles at our place and against our conference teams,” Prohm added. “The teams we’ve struggled against: Dayton, Western Kentucky, Middle [Tennessee], St. Mary’s, had physical three’s, four’s, and five’s. That’s why I was really proud of the SEMO effort the other night.”
On the other side, UT Martin head coach Jason James was proud of his team’s effort, but says the shots just didn’t fall. “There’s two things to execution,” James said. “You can run a set and get a clean look and miss it. Which doesn’t mean much, because they get to the other end and probably score. And you can run a set and knock it in. And tonight, I think that was our issue.”
UT Martin falls to 0-3 in the conference, but have yet to play a home game in OVC play.