Racers narrowly escape Belmont at home


Sophomore guard Brian Moore Jr. scored a career high 25 points in the Racers win over Belmont on Wednesday, Feb 1. Photo courtesy of David Eaton/Racer Athletics.

Jakob Milani, Sports Editor

In just the second meeting since switching conferences, the Murray State men’s basketball team barely came out on top over Belmont, defeating the Bruins 83-82.

While senior forward Ben Sheppard led all scorers with 35 points and nine rebounds, sophomore guard Brian Moore Jr. scored a career high 25 points and grabbed six rebounds and five assists to help the Racers take home the win.

Moore spoke after the game about his recent success, as he’s started the last five games and scored double-digit points in eight of his last 11 games. He said there’s two lessons that have been the key to him catching fire.

“Confidence and comfortability,” Moore said. “That’s the two things that coach has been preaching to me since the start. That’s just the major difference I’ve seen in myself recently is that my confidence has been through the roof.”

The two rivals both moved over to the MVC after battling for the top spot in the OVC for many decades.

Junior forward DJ Burns was the first to score in the game with a close jumper, but the Bruins were quick to answer with back-to-back buckets from freshman forward Cade Tyson and senior guard Ben Sheppard.

Three-point shooting was keeping the Bruins up over the Racers early, with back-to-back 3s from Sheppard putting the Bruins up by 6. But Moore got a pair of layups to fall to make it 10-8, with the Bruins still up.

Belmont kept hold of the lead for the next three minutes and some change, until sophomore forward Kenny White Jr. got 7 straight points to fall to give the Racers a 22-20 lead with 10:57 left in the first half.

Burns extended the lead to 4 points with a layup, but Belmont quickly brought the game back to within 1 point.

After that, the Racers went on a 9-0 run to extend the lead to 10, with a 3-pointer from junior guard Rob Perry and layups from Moore and junior forward Jamari Smith. The Racers were up 33-23.

But the 3s rained in from the Bruins as Tyson and graduate forward Drew Friberg cut the Racers’ lead to 3 points in just one minute of playtime.

After yet another 3 from Tyson and a layup from Sheppard, the Bruins found themselves down by just 1 point with 2:49 left in the half.

That would be the closest they got to the lead in the half, though, as White and sophomore guard JaCobi Wood each hit 3s to put the Racers up 49-43 at halftime.

The Racers quickly extended their lead to 12 points early in the second half with buckets coming from Perry, Moore and Burns. While Sheppard answered with a pair of free throws and a 3-pointer, Burns and Perry got more buckets to fall to make it an 11-point lead for the Racers.

Once the clock passed the 13 minutes left mark, Belmont got a boost of momentum thanks to a technical foul assessed to Burns. The lack of inside defense allowed for layups from Sheppard and Friberg and opened up the 3-point shot from Tyson.

The scoring onslaught tied the game at 61 with 11 minutes left.

From there, it was a back-and-forth battle, with both teams trading shots on each possession. Freshman forward Sam Murray had two dunks, which were responded to with jumpers from Tyson and junior center Even Brauns.

Despite a 3-pointer from Perry to tie the game, Sheppard and Brauns each got buckets to fall to put the Bruins up 73-69 with 5:52 left to play.

After White made a layup and Moore made a free throw, Moore made a 3-pointer to put the Racers up by 2 points even with a layup from Sheppard that tied the game up, Moore hit another 3-pointer to put the Racers up 75-78.

Moore added to the lead with a layup, but Sheppard quickly answered with a 3-pointer. Heading into the final minute, it was 80-78 with the Racers up.

In crunch time, Wood got a second-chance layup to fall, while Sheppard made a layup on the other end to keep Belmont within 2 points.  As the clock dipped below 30 seconds, the Bruins were forced to start fouling and sent Wood to the line.

However, Wood missed his one free throw. But the Racers’ defense held strong and got the ball back quickly, leading to Wood getting fouled again. While he made one free throw, he missed the second, and the Racers were up just 3 points.

After a pair of free throws from freshman guard Ja’Kobi Gillespie, White went to the free throw line with nine seconds left. He missed his one shot, and Sheppard grabbed the rebound and made his way down the court. But as the time expired, the senior missed the wide-open layup, leaving the Bruins short of the win by just 1 point.

The Racers defeated the Bruins 83-82.

Wood, who finished with 8 points, rebounds and assists each, was a transfer from Belmont to Murray State. He said after the game this one was special not just to him but to the whole team.

“It’s definitely a good feeling,” Wood said. “We really pulled this one out tonight. We played a really good team, and they played really well. I’m just glad we stuck together and won this one tonight.”

Murray State improves to 13-10 overall and 8-5 in conference play, just one game out of first place in the Valley. The Racers travel to Terre Haute, Indiana to take on Indiana State on Saturday, Feb. 4. Tipoff is set for 3 p.m. on CBS Sports Network.


[email protected]