Murray State freshman Cameron Payne, Ohio Valley Conference player of the year and first-team all-OVC selection, had a bit of a rough end to the season. In the regular season finale, Payne missed two free-throws that would have sealed a share of the Ohio Valley Conference title. Less than a week later, Payne missed a buzzer-beater three that would have sent the Racers to overtime against eventual tournament champion Eastern Kentucky.
Those kind of moments can usually go one of two ways: they can break a young player, or they can make him even stronger.
Payne appears to be taking the second of those paths.
A clutch floater by Payne with 16 seconds remaining gave Murray State a one-point lead, and two clutch free-throws in the final second help propel Murray to a 66-63 win at Missouri State.
“The team that’s most excited to play in these things – regardless if it’s the NIT, the CBI, the CIT – they’re the ones that usually win,” head coach Steve Prohm said in his post-game radio interview. “For the first five, six minutes, they weren’t excited to play. Then they started getting their juices going.”
Despite being unexcited, Murray State jumped out to a 16-3 lead over Missouri State, before the Bears went on a similar run to tie the game at 21. Murray trailed by one heading into halftime, but Missouri State would open the second half on a 7-0 run, opening up a 44-36 lead with 18:37 left.
Murray would quickly close the gap, with Jonathan Fairell, who played limited minutes due to foul trouble, scoring two straight baskets and to tie the game at 53 with 11-minutes remaining.
Down three, Tyler Rambo made a steal and scored his only basket of the game with 1:13 remaining to cut the Bears lead to 63-62. The Racers defense held on the ensuing possession, setting up Payne’s game-winning floater.
After Payne’s free-throws, the Racers defense didn’t allow the Bears to get a shot off as they covered a loose ball when time expired to escape with the win.
Jarvis Williams led the Racers with another double-double, scoring 20 points on 8-11 shooting and pulling down 10 rebounds, Payne added 19, with Jeffrey Moss scoring another ten despite dismal 3-14 shooting. Murray State only turned over the ball eight times, and edged the Bears on the glass.
The second round of the CIT is this Friday and Saturday, except for Murray State. The Racers were originally slated to go to face Nebraska-Omaha, but an issue with their arena forced a change of plans. Nebraska-Omaha will now travel to Murray for an 7 p.m. tip Monday night, the final game of the second round.
- T.J. Sapp’s impact was missed. Sapp didn’t make the trip with the team, instead awaiting the birth of his child. Murray State is used to getting off to fast starts, as they did against Missouri State, but without their backup point guard, the Racers struggled to maintain that lead they built up in the first two minutes. The one major positive: only eight turnovers without a backup point guard. Sapp is expected to return to Murray in time for Monday night’s game.
- Bench? What bench? Murray’s State’s hasn’t been a deep team the entire season, and with Sapp out, the Racers bench was even shorter. Tonight, it scored two points, Rambo’s late steal and layup. That’s it. Rambo played 25 minutes, by far the most he’s played since Sapp became eligible. The rest of the bench played just 15 minutes…combined. If it weren’t for Fairell’s foul trouble, I’m not sure they even would have played that much.
- AD Allen Ward must be quite the negotiator: In the CIT, you bid for home games. Ward wanted a home game, but not until the Racers students were back from Spring Break. The second round was scheduled for this Friday and Saturday, which is when the other 14 teams remaining will play. Murray State? They’ll play Monday, in front of their home crowd filled with students. While I don’t know the exact details on exactly how this came about, I’m willing to bet it’s a safe bet that Ward was quite persuasive with the CIT, especially after it became known that Omaha-Nebraska, who needed an opponent, and couldn’t host. If the Racers win Monday, it will be a quick turnaround: the quarterfinals are scheduled for Tuesday thru Thursday.
|MURRAY ST||MISSOURI ST|
|Off. Reb %||42.11%||35.29%|