Dexter and the nets

Lone senior Dexter Fields hoists a piece of the cut net following a 65-57 win over the Yale Bulldogs in the 2014 Tournament championship. Fields had one basket – fittingly a three-pointer – to put the Racers up 58-50 late in the second half.

Out of 351 schools in 33 Division I basketball conferences, only four can win its postseason finale.

Murray State is now one.

Paced by a game-high 24 points from freshman Cam Payne, the Racers outlasted Yale 65-57 Thursday night, claiming the program's first non-Ohio Valley Conference postseason tournament championship.

"This was a great accomplishment for our team," said Payne, who earned CIT Most Valuable Player honors, averaging 20.6 points per game in tournament play. "From the way we started to the way we finished, it really couldn't have ended any better for us."

Payne rounded out his night with seven rebounds, six assists and two steals, but the night's biggest ovation came with 14 seconds left, when Murray State fans bid farewell to lone senior Dexter Fields for the final time.

Fields scored just three points in his MSU finale, but his triple with 2:58 left to play pushed the Racers in front 58-50, their final margin of victory.

"We wanted to send Dex out the right way," Payne said. "We didn't do it in the OVC Tournament, so we came back in the CIT and everything we did was for Dexter."

Fields walked off the floor to a standing ovation of 4,467, and was then serenaded one final time by Racer fans.

As he hoisted the CIT championship trophy toward the CFSB Center rafters, "Thank-you Dex-ter!" echoed from the stands, sending tears down the cheek of one of MSU's most beloved players.

"I tried to keep my composure," Fields said with a smile. "It just feels great to win this championship. We worked hard for this and I just want to credit my teammates for coming out here and laying it all on the line for me. These guys are young, they could have went and left for spring break. Instead they wanted to finish out and play with me, and that's something I'll always remember.

"These guys have great character, and I just can't put into words how thankful I am to have played with them and played for Murray State."

The Racers (23-11) led by one at halftime, but an Armani Cooper layup just over a minute into the second half gave Yale its first and only lead of the night.

Murray State responded with a 9-1 run, eventually leading by as many as 11 with 10 minutes to play.

Every time the Racers pulled away, however, the Bulldogs pulled back.

Yale got within five before Fields' three, and Prohm said he emphasized the same things in every media timeout during the second half.

"We just had to keep driving the basketball," he said. "We were settling for threes and we were trying to make home run plays. Our decision making wasn't great at times, and that's when we've struggled – when we've missed threes and had poor decision making.

"Fortunately this team has grown up enough defensively that we were able to persevere."

The Racers held Yale to just 26.0 percent shooting, which helped overcome a 12-rebound deficit on the glass. The Bulldogs grabbed 25 offensive rebounds, but had just 14 second-chance points to the Racers' seven.

Murray State outscored Yale 28-18 in the paint, and edged the Bulldogs 12-0 on fast break baskets.

Jarvis Williams scored 16 points and blocked five shots – earning his way onto the CIT All-Tournament team – while Jeffery Moss and T.J. Sapp each added nine. Jonathan Fairell grabbed a team-high nine rebounds to go with five blocks as well, on a night the Racers set a school record with 14 rejections.

At the end of the night though, none of the Racers struggles offensively or on the glass made cutting down the nets any less sweet – especially for Fields.

"Never underestimate a champion," he said. "We are champions, and I'm thankful for that."

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