MURRAY — The chill in the air outside the CFSB Center in Murray Tuesday night certainly made it feel like the December night that it was. Inside, however, the Murray State University men’s basketball team turned up the heat on Austin Peay State University with stifling pressure defense and red hot shooting as the Racers got a blowout win over the Governors by a score of 87-57.
Austin Peay and Murray State came into the contest as the preseason co-favorites to win the Ohio Valley Conference championship, and for the first few minutes of the game, it looked like the sell-out crowd of 1,290 fans was going to be treated to a close game. The Governors won the tip, and those in attendance got a little taste of what was to come later in the game as the Racers came up with a steal because of the pressure the Racer guards applied on the Austin Peay guards. Coach Matt McMahon’s Racer squad did not get to enjoy the fruits of their labor yet, though, as they turned it over on the ensuing possession.
By the first media timeout four minutes into the game, Austin Peay’s OVC Player of the Year, Terry Taylor, had already scored 6 points and grabbed 3 rebounds as the Governors led the Racers 6-4. The 6’5” Taylor was on the way to his nation-leading fifth straight double-double of the season.
The two teams looked to be feeling each other out for much of the first seven minutes of the game. With just over 13 minutes left in the first half, APSU held a 10-9 lead. When MSU’s Chico Carter Jr. slashed through the lane and finished an acrobatic layup with 12:51 to go in the first stanza the Racers inched in front 11-10. It appeared that another classic Battle of the Border was shaping up between old rivals.
A withering display of pressure defense from McMahon’s Murray State team allowed them to take a one-possession game and turn it into a blowout by halftime. It started as Austin Peay’s Reggie Gee pulled up for a three-point shot in transition. Tevin Brown closed out quickly and blocked the shot, then secured the rebound and kicked it ahead to Carter. Brown the man received a return pass for an alley-oop dunk.
The Racers completed a 16-0 run with just over seven minutes left in the half. While completely shutting down Austin Peay on the defensive end the Racers’ offense was outstanding. As a team, Murray State shot 59% from the field and only committed five turnovers.
At the half, Murray State’s lead had ballooned to 23 points and McMahon was pleased with his team.
“Our ball pressure was really good and our defensive positioning was good,” McMahon said. “When we went in at halftime they were at 1 assist to 11 turnovers in the first half and I thought that told the story of the first half.”
The second half was more of the same as the combination of the Racers’ ball pressure and extraordinary footwork and positioning by their forwards continued to make things difficult for the Governors. The Murray State defensive effort made it difficult for APSU to get Taylor the ball.
“You’re not going to stop Terry Taylor,” McMahon said. “He’s going to get his double-double but you want to make him work as hard as you can. I thought that was key for us.”
On their offensive end, the Racers got double-figure scoring games from four players led by Browns’ 19 points on 5-of-10 from the 3-point line. Carter scored 17 points on 7-of-10 from the field. KJ Williams had 16 points on a perfect 6-of-6 from the field. Brion Whitley pumped in 10 points. Forwards KJ Williams, Demond Robinson and Devin Gilmore were perfect from the field as they combined to go 10 of 10.
MSU scored 23 points off turnovers, out-rebounded APSU 34-25, and scored 56 points in the paint while holding the Governors to 26. Coach McMahon knows that it is early in the season but he was pleased with the effort he got tonight from the entire Racers squad as they extended their home winning streak to 24.
“I really enjoyed watching them play tonight. The defensive intensity and focus was off the charts.”
Next up for the Racers is a game at Southern Illinois at 6:30 p.m. Friday.