OVC Ball Statbox
|3-4 (0-0 CUSA)|
|5-4 (0-0 OVC)|
|28/53 (52.8%)||Field Goals||34/60 (56.7%)|
|7/14 (50.0%)||3-Point FG||11/20 (55.0%)|
|18/26 (69.2%)||Free Throws||14/23 (60.9%)|
|27 (12/15)||Rebounds (O/D)||32 (15/17)|
|2nd Chance Pts|
|Points off TO|
|Pts in the Paint|
Tempo Tracker (Possessions)
Western Kentucky offense
Murray State offense
|Points:||T.J. Price (21)||Payne, Williams (24)|
|Rebounds:||Fant (7)||Williams (12)|
|Assists:||Harrison-Docks (4)||Payne (7)|
|Steals:||T.J. Price (2)||Payne (2)|
It was the best of times. (Building a 20-point first half lead, forcing nine WKU turnovers in the first nine minutes, pulling down offensive rebounds on five of their first seven misses.)
It was the worst of times. (Watching that 20 point lead creep down all the way to four, forcing five turnovers in the final 31 minutes, allowing WKU to hit 12 of their first 19 shots in the second half.)
Yes, I seriously just started a story with some classic Dickens. You’re welcome.
Tonight’s victory at the Bank wasn’t just a hot-and-cold affair for Murray, in a way it represented the two sides of their season: The first half showed the potential of this squad, the group expected to see before the season started, from the game-controlling dominance of the Racers backcourt, to the rebounding tenacity of the Racers big men; A team that can battle away inside, before sticking a dagger in you from deep.
The second half? A somewhat stark reminder of the Racers reality, a team whose talent on paper hasn’t always bled over onto the court.
Without a doubt, tonight’s performance was much more encouraging than worrying. Victory aside, the Racers growth — just in the past week — shined with smart plays, clutch moments, and the toughness to respond when Western made a deep second-half run.
A 16-0 lead blew open a slow start from both teams, with the Racers forcing nine turnovers in the first nine minutes, Murray State hitting shots, and perhaps the most impressive, Murray State guards passing up three-point looks, shot faking, and driving inside for better ones.
“We shot faked, huh,” Murray State head coach Steve Prohm excitedly answered, before I could even finish my question. “How about that? How about that? It was unbelievable. When Cam Payne shot faked that one three, and hit the 15-footer, it was like ‘finally, people think we practice.’ For the first time — hopefully you’ve thought in the past we’ve practiced. But this year? I don’t think people thought we practiced.”
The Racers also dominated the first 20 minutes on the glass. After pulling down five offensive rebounds on their first seven missed shots, the Racers finished the opening twenty minutes with nine, holding Western, and preseason all-Conference USA selection George Fant, to just a pair. Murray State was led on the boards by Jarvis Williams, who pulled down a game-high 12 rebounds on the night, six off Racers’ misses.
But even Prohm was quick not to dwell solely on what the team did well. At 5-4, he’s well aware that there’s more work to be done.
“He’s got to rebound for us,” Prohm said of Williams. “He had 12. But in a game like this — to finish it, and not put so much pressure or stress out everybody — he’s got to have 18. And I’ll tell him that, because we can’t let anybody settle.”
“It’s one win,” Prohm immediately added.
Western’s offense wasn’t entirely stifled in the opening 20 minutes. When the Hilltoppers could get off a shot, they were highly effective, hitting 11-20 from the field, and 4-7 from three.
The second half wasn’t actually all that different. WKU still hit their shots. Only this time: Murray State wasn’t forcing turnovers, and couldn’t keep them off the glass.
But that same run, which exposed some of the Racers weaknesses, also once again showed lessons already being learned. Instead of settling for deep shots, Murray State pushed the ball inside repeatedly, looking for Williams, but even newcomers like Wayne Langston to make a good play in the paint.
“Inside out. Paint touches. Inside out,” Prohm said, and repeated two more times. “That’s all we’re saying — it sounds like a recorder right now. Quit jacking three’s; We’ll get them, we can make them, just get better ones, with 17 on the clock, after good ball reversal. And we may miss them, but let’s go inside out.”
Murray State only took six three-point attempts during the second-half.
Two of them shut the door on Western for good.
With the Racers leading by five with just over six minutes to go, Cameron Payne passed to T.J. Sapp on the wing, who drilled an open look. One possession later, following a WKU free-throw, it was Payne to Sapp again.
A five point game became 10. And the threat that once again, Murray State, in front of 5,000 strong, could have a big lead, but fall on their home floor — that threat officially ended.
But as Prohm so bluntly put it, it’s just one win. Just one step to a much bigger, and more rewarding goal.
“I’m not doing the short practice, keep your rest, because that doesn’t work with these guys,” Prohm said. “If it’s three hours, then it’s three hours, because that’s what we need. We need to be tougher than our opponent, and we’ve got to play the right way.”
“We did tonight.”
As I sit here after the game, courtside, writing a story with a intro from Dickens, I think about some of the greatest stories I’ve ever read. I don’t mean basketball game stories, just stories: Things you read in novels, and in comic books, and see on TV or in video games.
There’s almost always some form of hero, and some form of villain, and before the hero can rise up to save the day, he must first overcome some great task.
You’re probably wondering “um…has OVC Ball lost his mind here?” Here’s where I’m going with all this:
Murray State’s story this season isn’t one of 31-2. It’s not a story of a team finding nothing but success, and riding it though. The villain that year was the outside world, the commentators who from on high declared that Murray State wasn’t worthy of being a top-10 team, that they weren’t worthy of a high tournament seed.
(And I was really positive about that team. Seriously — go back and look. Just ignore the TSU game recap. It was an emotional night.)
This year’s story is much more interesting. Because in a way — the villain of the story isn’t the outside world at all. This is a story about the struggle against one another. Murray’s players fighting their own nature, to want to be the hero, hit the dagger three, even when a more precise cut would do.
But to build yourself back up — to have that moment of redemption, you first have to fall down.
That’s what Murray State has done.
…and what could make it such a compelling story come March.
If you were to ask me what’s the most thrilling way to win a game, my answer is simple: it’s a comeback. Down big, your heart drops. You can’t imagine what you’re seeing one moment, and seemingly in the next, you’re heart feels like it’s about to explode, as your team comes charging back from the darkest and deepest of depths. It’s what we love about sports. But to have that comeback story, there has to be that fall: that moment where everything, on some level, seems lost.
So, that’s why I write game stories like the one I wrote above. Tonight was, without a doubt, a great game played by Murray State, a great win against a heated and long-time rival.
But there were it’s down moments too. It wasn’t a 100-0 shutout at the bank, after all, and this team still has long term issues that need to be hammered out as we near conference play.
The most compelling narrative isn’t one where the hero never fights anyone, and instead goes to the grocery because he needs a gallon of milk.
It’s the one where he overcomes.
That’s the story I’m writing. Which means I have to write about the bad.
So that when they come back — it fells all that much better.
Why am I writing this, you ask? I promise you at least one person knows. And sometimes, it’s easy to forget that I’m not just a boy with a typewriter (or Macbook Air. Same thing) — who has a really cool hobby.