Murray State’s CIT opener was a moment of redemption for the Racers young guard: Cameron Payne hit a game-winning floater, and two late free-throws to seal Murray State’s win over Missouri State, two things he failed to do in the Racers back-to-back loses heading into the tournament. After a long wait (by tournament standards) Murray State heads home for game two against Nebraska-Omaha.
- The Return of T.J. Sapp. The Clemson transfer missed the Racers opening game due to the birth of his child, but he’s back in Murray, and will resume his role as the Racers’ sixth man. Murray State will need a second ball handler against a Nebraska-Omaha team that forces more than 15 turnovers a game, and could use his three-point shooting as well, as the Mavericks want to force the Racers into a high-scoring affair.
- Who will control tempo? Murray State doesn’t play slow by normal standards, but the Mavericks average the fourth most possessions per game in the nation. They run a highly up-tempo, balanced attack that’s very likely to put up a lot of points, and their ability to force turnovers not only strengthens their defense, but supports their fast-paced offense. We’ve seen Murray State in track meets before, (the game at Austin Peay comes to mind) and while the Racers can likely score with the Mavericks, can the rather youthful Racers impose their tempo on Nebraska-Omaha, and not get into a track meet that most benefits the Mavericks.
- Do fans care about the CIT? Murray State head coach Steve Prohm hasn’t been shy about to taking to Twitter over the weekend to thank ticket office workers for coming in over the weekend, while imploring the fans to show up. Last week, we saw just 2,500 show up for Belmont’s second round NIT game, and while the Racers are sure to top that just based on average attendance, I’m curious by how much. This game doesn’t come free to the University, and while I feel there’s little risk the school won’t turn a profit, how much money they make could determine whether Murray is willing to shell out for more games in the future, possibly as soon as Wednesday.
Players to Watch
- C.J. Carter (Nebraska-Omaha): The 6’1 junior is the Mavericks leading scorer, and their leading assists man, making him a tough challenge for the Racers defense. He’s been an efficient scorer down the stretch, shooting 51% from the floor in his last four games.
- Jarvis Williams (Murray State): On paper, Nebraska-Omaha doesn’t have a lot of weaknesses, but they have struggled to defend the interior, which could lead to another big game for the Racers big man. Williams has scored in double figures in the Racers last 12 games, notching seven double-doubles over that same stretch.
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