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The Murray State News

The Murray State News

Racers balanced scoring leads to blowout win

Sophomore forward KJ Williams goes for a dunk on a fastbreak against Morehead State. (Photo by Gage Johnson/TheNews)

Gage Johnson


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Murray State men’s basketball bounced back from the Austin Peay loss by putting on an offensive clinic against Morehead State, shooting over 50% from the field and never losing the lead to come away with an 85-57 blowout victory.

After a slow start from both teams, the Racers used a 7-0 run capped off by an alley-oop finish from junior forward Devin Gilmore and a block that led to a layup for senior guard Jaiveon Eaves to take a 16-8 lead.

Murray State followed this up with an 11-1 run to take a 31-13 lead, but the Eagles weren’t letting the game get away from them this early.

With 6:54 left to play in the first half, senior guard Djimon Henson gave Morehead State its first basket in over five minutes with a three that jumpstarted a 1:30 8-0 run to cut the Racers’ lead to 31-21.

However, Murray State closed out the half strong, going into the locker room leading 45-32 after a buzzer-beating three from Eagles senior guard Jordan Walker.

The bucket from downtown to end the half was one of the 4-for-7 clip Morehead State toted in the first half, but in the second half the Eagles didn’t have the same luck from deep.

In the second half Morehead State shot 2-for-11 from beyond the arc and Head Coach Matt McMahon said keying in on that allowed the Racers to gain such a large lead.

“They run good offense,” McMahon said. “They run a lot of different actions that can really catch you that lead to threes. I thought that kept them in the game. It was certainly a point of emphasis for us in the second half. [It] starts with containing the basketball so you’re not in rotations, but I thought we contested the threes better. I thought that was a big key to us being able to stretch out the lead.”

Along with holding the Eagles to 33.9% from the field, Murray State continued to pour it on offensively with a 52.7% shooting display throughout the game, walking away with an impressive victory.

“Really pleased with our guys’ performance today,” McMahon said. “I thought the effort at the defensive end was terrific. I thought we really defended as a team and then offensively I really liked our unselfishness [and] our balance.”

Contributions from nearly everyone on the Racers roster played a huge part in their victory.

Sophomore guard Tevin Brown led all scorers with 15 points, while Eaves (13 pts), sophomore forward KJ Williams (13 pts), freshman guard Chico Carter Jr. (11 pts) and Gilmore (11 pts) all finished in double figures.

This was the first game of extended play that Carter Jr. received after missing significant time due to a hand injury and illness, and he was able to provide 11 points on 4-for-8 shooting with 3-for-4 coming from deep off the bench.

“Coming back from illness I’ve just been getting in the gym like twice a day with our coaches and stuff,” Carter Jr. “[I’ve been] getting up a lot of shots [and] my teammates have been giving me a lot of confidence to get me back in my flow and it felt good to see a couple shots go in today.”

McMahon said when someone misses as many times as Carter Jr. did, it takes time to get back to 100 percent, but felt as though he looked like he is after his performance against Morehead State.

“I thought he played really well,” McMahon said. “He got back in practice on Tuesday and I think he progressed really well throughout the week and played an outstanding game for us today.”

Gilmore also came off the bench and put up the lone double-double for Murray State, totaling 11 points off 4-for-4 shooting from the field and 3-for-4 shooting from the charity stripe to go along with 10 rebounds.

“I thought Devin gave great energy tonight,” McMahon said. “It started with that lob play that Chico hit him with in their zone. He chased offensive rebounds [and] I thought he was really active. [He] made a couple nice moves in the second half around the basket and finished plays.”

Gilmore has been a solid rotation player for the team throughout conference play, shooting 74% from the floor. He attributes constantly looking to go right at the defense’s throat to his success around the basket.

“Just always being in attack mode,” Gilmore said. “Usually I’m a little passive when it comes to me scoring the ball, but I just had to get back to what I’m used to: being in attack mode.”

The Racers were able to get 37 bench points on the night and Carter Jr. said it’s a mentality that McMahon impresses upon them that they look to follow on a nightly basis that helped against the Eagles.

“Coach Matt just keeps preaching [to] come off the bench with the same energy as the starting five,” Carter Jr. said. “When the bench comes in [he’s] preaching no drop-off and then we can all come together as one.”

Murray State was also able to minimize its recurring turnover issues as of late, turning the ball over 10 times against Morehead State and only allowing four points off those turnovers.

“It’s been a focal point for quite a while now,” McMahon said. “Coming off a weekend where we threw it all over Nashville, to go from 38 to 20 was really a step in the right direction for us. It allows you to play more efficiently offensively. You eliminate the empty possessions number one when you turn it over, and number two you give up a lot of easy baskets off turnovers, so it’ll continue to be a point of emphasis for us.”

The Racers now sit at 19-7 overall with an OVC record of 12-2, remaining tied with Austin Peay atop the conference.

Murray State will hit the road for its second matchup against EIU at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 20, in Charleston, Illinois.

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