Murray State vs SIU: a rivalry reborn


Sophomore guard Brian Moore Jr. led the Racers with 19 points in their loss to Southern Illinois on Tuesday, Jan. 24. Photo by Rebeca Mertins/The News.

Jakob Milani, Sports Editor

MVC basketball can bring out the most in fan bases, and those words had never seemed more true as the Southern Illinois Salukis hosted the Murray State’s men’s basketball team on Tuesday, Jan. 24.

While the Racers had three players with double-digit points and a lead with just under 3:30 left, the Salukis shot the lights out with 10 3-pointers, giving them the 68-64 win.

Sophomore guard Brian Moore Jr. led the Racers with 19 points and no turnovers, while junior guard Rob Perry had 16 points and 10 rebounds, and junior forward Jamari Smith had 15 points. Senior guard Lance Jones, who had a season high 21 points against the Racers in their previous meeting, finished with 19 points for the Salukis.

The two teams have a long, rivaled past, with the first meeting between the two programs dating back to 1929 and their last meeting in 2019. Going into the game Tuesday, the teams were deadlocked at 19 wins apiece over their history, and the Racers were a 7.5 point underdog heading into their 39th game against the Salukis.

TheRacers lost to SIU earlier this season in the CFSB Center, ending the Racers’ 20-plus home win streak.

Following the Racers’ win Saturday night over Indiana State, Head Coach Steve Prohm said the team felt more prepared to go against the Salukis the second time around.

“We know how good they are,” Prohm said. “They’re older. They’re experienced. I think Brian [Mullins] has his best team since he’s been there. This is a team they think can compete for a championship…it really comes down to if you can out-tough them on both ends of the floor. This is a great rivalry that is starting to get renewed. We know it’ll have to be our best game.”

The Racers have struggled to start halves so far this season, and that was no different in this game, with the Salukis going up 8-0 just 3:04 into the game, forcing Prohm to call a timeout.

Just over five minutes later, Moore made a layup to tie the game at 12. Moore, who was starting over sophomore forward Kenny White Jr., had been elevating his game over the last handful of games, scoring double-digit points in five of his last eight games heading into Tuesday. 

He proved to be a big part of the Racers’ offense in the game, scoring 5 points in the first nine minutes of the game.

After tying the game at 12, the two teams went back and forth, trading baskets on what felt like every possession. After a jumper from Perry and a free throw from Moore, the Racers took a 17-14 lead with 9:08 left in the first half.

Despite taking a 3-point lead, the Racers’ defense was no match for the Salukis’ 3-point offense. Jones made a 3 to tie the game at 17 on the Salukis’ next possession, then senior guard Jawaun Newton hit a 3 on the next possession to put the Salukis up by 3.

As the Racers went up by 3 points again with 4:16 left in the half, senior guard Xavier Johnson hit a 3 to tie it at 28. After a scoreless last two minutes of the half, the Salukis led the Racers 34-30 at halftime.

While Moore and Smith combined for 18 points in the first half, scoring 10 and 8 respectively, the Salukis shot 7-15 from 3-point range and 50% from the field in the first half.

The game proceeded to get chippy almost instantly in the second half, as junior forward DJ Burns and sophomore forward Clarence Rupert were each given technical fouls for an argument after just 13 seconds of play in the second half.

The Salukis took advantage and went on a 7-0 run to start the half, going up 40-30.

After 4 points from Moore to get the Racers within 6, Burns picked up his fourth foul and lost his temper, leading to him being benched for the remainder of the game.

The lack of Burns’ defense wasn’t much of an issue for the Racers. as Smith buried a 3 to bring the Racers within 3 points. From there, it was back-and-forth basketball, with junior guard Dalton Banks making a layup to put the Salukis up 50-44 with 9:34 left to play.

That was all SIU could muster up over the next couple minutes as the Racers went on a 10-0 run to take a 54-50 lead, thanks to shots from Moore and Perry, as well as free throws from junior guard Quincy Anderson.

But similar to the first half, 3-pointers were a thorn in the Racers’ side. Senior forward Marcus Domask, who entered the game leading the Salukis in points, rebounds and assists, made a 3-pointer to bring them within 1 point of the lead. Then, after a layup from Anderson, Jones made his fourth 3-pointer of the night to tie the game at 56.

It was a dog fight to the very end, as the Racers kept battling to hold their lead, but Johnson was fouled and made three free throws, and the Salukis took a lead the Racers would never get back. Despite the efforts of Perry and freshman forward Justin Morgan to make shots in the final minute, the Racers came up short, leaving Carbondale with a 68-64 loss.

Prohm said after the game despite fighting till the end, the Racers just couldn’t get it done and emphasized how much this loss means to them.

“We really competed, but you gotta compete and you gotta finish, and we didn’t do that,” Prohm said. “We left some opportunities around the basket. Some tough turnovers late. It’s frustrating, the way it ended. We needed this one for a lot of reasons. Screw the race, forget trying to get first. We just needed it, and we didn’t get it.”

The rivalry between Southern Illinois and Murray State is alive and well with the Racers now a part of the Valley. But with no more guaranteed meetings left this season, fans will have to hope for a meeting in the Missouri Valley Tournament at the end of the season.

Murray State fell to 11-10 overall this season with a 6-5 record in the crowded Valley standings. The Racers host Missouri State on Saturday, Jan. 28, with tipoff time set for 1 p.m.

[email protected]