MURRAY — Tonight the Murray State Racers’ men’s basketball team has their first big test of the year when they face the Tennessee Volunteers in Knoxville.
The Volunteers opened their season up with a win over UNC-Asheville 78-63 behind solid spurts of defense. In the first half, they held the Bulldogs without a basket for a 5:31 stretch and 0-5 from the field. It was a balanced scoring effort for the Volunteers who had four players in double digits, led by Lamonte Turner’s 17. Yves Pons finished with 15, John Fulkerson had 10, and Jordan Bowden dropped in 10. The Volunteers assisted on 19 of the 33 baskets and outrebounded the Bulldogs 49-29.
Volunteers head coach Rick Barnes said in a press conference Monday that the Murray State Racers are a team that plays similar to his guys, particularly with the bigs.
“They return some experienced players that played for an NCAA Tournament team a year ago and are a year older. Roles will change from year to year, I don’t care who you bring back, but they’re a really solid defensive team,” Barnes said. “I think they very much play the way that we like to play, inside-out. They have a really good post presence and are really solid defensively, and they’ve got experienced guys that have played in some big games. They’ve added to that two terrific shooters from the perimeter that you’ve got to really know where they are. They’re an inside team, with a really good post presence. (They play) mostly man, but will mix in some different defenses to try and keep you off balance. I just think they’re a well-coached team.”
After the season-opening win for the Racers, head coach Matt McMahon was excited for his guys to be 1–0 but expressed a little concern over the turnovers. There were many times in the opener that the Racers went for the spectacular pass instead of the simple one and it came back to bite them multiple times.
With a tough SEC opponent on tap tonight, the Racers have to be careful with the ball and continue to play with effort.
The scout on the Volunteers began even before the game against Southern and that’s the way this team operates. Each of the assistant coaches handles scouting throughout the year and stay ahead of the schedule and after the win over Southern, McMahon said they were well on their way to breaking the Volunteers down and that work would begin immediately to prepare for the game tonight.
“We know they are a team that, months at a time last year were number one in the country,” McMahon said. “It’ll be a great environment and a great opportunity for us.”
The area the Racers will best matchup tonight will be in the post. Plenty of returners with experience, coupled with lots of size in the post, should make it a battle in the paint tonight for points and rebounds.
“I think we have great size up front,” McMahon said. “I think we have good size and athleticism on the perimeter, and I think it’s (rebounding) something that needs to be a strength of ours at both ends of the floor.”