OVC Ball Statbox
|9-4 (0-1 OVC)|
|7-8 (1-0 OVC)|
|29/63 (46.0%)||Field Goals||25/55 (45.5%)|
|5/15 (33.3%)||3-Point FG||7/21 (33.3%)|
|20/26 (76.9%)||Free Throws||35/43 (81.4%)|
|38 (14/24)||Rebounds (O/D)||34 (9/25)|
|13||2nd Chance Pts||12|
|12||Points off TO||19|
|40||Pts in the Paint||30|
Tempo Tracker (Possessions)
Tennessee St. offense
Murray State offense
This game had it all: fouls. More fouls. Technical fouls! A late-game ejection! But in between the numerous whistles, Murray State got their best win since the season’s opening day.
Demarcus Croaker scored 25 points off the bench, Jonathan Stark poured in 22 points in the second half, and Murray State closed the game on a 9-0 run to beat the favored Tigers in both teams OVC opener.
Murray State trailed by eight at the half, after the Tigers closed the opening period on a 7-0 run, but the Racers opened the second half with three straight buckets to close the gap. TSU would build the lead back to 8 with 12:19 to play, but the Racers would soon respond with a 13-2 run, to take a four-point lead with 7:16 to remain.
In between the numerous whistles, Murray State got their best win since the season’s opening day.
Tennessee State tied the game twice down the stretch, including a Reed dunk off a bad pass from Croaker in the final minute, but the Tigers never took back the lead.
Murray State sealed the win with four free-throws from Stark, and a steal and dunk by Croaker with 11 seconds to play.
Fouls, which both teams struggled with, got the better of the Tigers. Four Tigers fouled out, and a fifth, Wayne Martin, was ejected for an elbow in the final minute. Martin notched a double-double in the first half, and finished with a team-high 19 points and 16 rebounds in the loss. Tahjere McCall fouled out with 4:40 to play, and TSU never really recovered.
WHAT THIS MEANS FOR TENNESSEE STATE
Three issues immediately come to mind, two of which have been issues all year: Fouls, turnovers (16 for the game, 10 in the first half), and a general lack of discipline. The latter of which is the most surprising: this is a senior-led team, after all. They’re supposed to be mature, able to keep their cool no matter how bad they perceive the refereeing to be.
Three Tigers got called for technical fouls, and a fourth was ejected. That can’t happen against a good team. That can’t happen against a bad team.
The Tigers defense struggled greatly in the second half…but Murray did the most damage in transition, before TSU could set up their defense. When they forced the Racers into the half-court, they were as good as they’ve been all year. The Tigers will need to find ways to slow down these kind of offenses (making more shots helps…TSU shot just 36% in the second half, and 2-9 from three) if they’re going to have continued success.
It’s just one loss, and the Tigers can only hope they don’t see these refs again in March in Nashville. The bad news: the Racers now hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over them, if it comes to that for seeding.
WHAT THIS MEANS FOR MURRAY STATE
This is a very good win, but I’m cautious saying it’s “game on” in the conference just yet. We’ve seen what the Racers can do. The question is now: can they do this game-in and game-out. Both Bryce Jones and Croaker responded well to being taken out of the starting lineup. Their performance has been inconsistent this year — they need to bottle up this effort and performance and replicate it for the rest of the season.
The Racers are clearly capable of beating anyone in the league, but consistency has been their issue. Even in this game — Stark followed up a terrible 1-9 shooting half with a 6-8 one. The difference? In the first, he was settling for jumpers, often falling away. In the second, he played with more discipline, letting the game come to him, and driving more to the basket.
The defense is still a bit of a work in progress, but when you put up 57 points in a half, you don’t need all that much defense.
We’ve now seen the Racers at their best. The challenge is now playing at their “best” throughout the rest of conference play.