Men’s basketball holds on versus Illinois State


Sophomore forward Kenny White Jr. blocks a shot against the Redbirds in their previous meeting. Photo by Rebeca Mertins Chiodini/The News.

Jakob Milani, Sports Editor

The final sprint to the finish line began in victorious fashion as the Murray State men’s basketball team defeated the Illinois State Redbirds 76-75 on Wednesday, Feb.15.

Junior guard Rob Perry’s 22 first-half points gave the Racers a 5-point lead at halftime, but the team’s defense stepped up in the final minutes to give the Racers their second conference win on the road and third road win of the season. 

Another three players finished in double digits for the Racers: sophomore forward Kenny White Jr. (16), junior guard Quincy Anderson (15) and junior forward Jamari Smith (11).

The Redbirds were quick to take the lead, going up 11-0 to start, thanks to three buckets from behind the arc from fifth-year guard Seneca Knight and a jumper from junior guard Darius Burford. 

Perry ended the run with a 3-pointer of his own, but Burford answered right back with a turnaround jumper to make it 13-3 in favor of the Redbirds.

After another 3 from Perry, the teams began to trade baskets, with the Racers getting within 6 points off a jumper from Perry before junior forward Harouna Sissoko gave the Redbirds an 8-point lead with a layup.

The lead held at 8 points until a pair of free throws and a layup from senior forward Kendall Lewis made it 24-13 with 10:39 left in the first half.

After stretching the lead to 10 points with 6:12 left in the first half, the Redbirds began to fall apart as the Racers began their climb back.

Perry continued to score at a high clip with a pair of layups and a 3-pointer before Lewis answered with a layup to keep the difference at 8 points.

But the Redbirds went scoreless from there, and the Racers went on a 13-0 run to end the first half, with 3s raining in from Perry and Anderson and layups from Anderson and Wood.

When the buzzer sounded for halftime, the Racers led the Redbirds 40-35.

Perry led all scorers with 22 points at half and led the Racers with three rebounds. He shot 8-11 from the field and 5-8 from 3-point range. Anderson followed behind with 10 points on 4-5 shooting from the field. Wood was up to eight assists. Knight led the Redbirds with 11 points, 9 of which came off 3s.

The game remained close to start the second half as the Redbird scored 4 quick points to tie the game at 40 points apiece. 

While Smith scored a pair of buckets to put the Racers back up, Burford made a layup and Lewis slammed down a dunk to tie the game again at 44 points.

After trading baskets back and forth, the Racers slowly started to break away with a layup from Wood, a 3 from Perry and a layup from White, putting the Racers up by 7 points.

The Racers’ lead extended to 10 points with layups from Anderson and White coming in with 7:44 left to play.

Though White put the Racers up by 11 points with a 3-pointer, their advantage slowly began to deteriorate as the half began to close out.

Knight, Burford and junior guard Malachi Poindexter began to chip away at the Racers’ lead with layups and jumpers, until the Redbirds were down by just 1 point with 43 seconds left, thanks to free throws from Knight.

It all came down to a defensive stand for the Racers with just 12 seconds left, and though Burford was able to put up a shot, it was just after the buzzer, leaving the Racers victorious.

Murray State left Normal, Illinois with a 76-75 win over the Redbirds.

Perry finished with 25 points and six rebounds for the Racers. Wood finished with 8 points and 11 rebounds.

Knight led the Redbirds with 22 points and eight rebounds, while Lewis had 20 points of his own and nine rebounds. Burford tacked on 18 points and dished out six assists.

Murray State improves to 14-13 on the season, with 9-8 in conference play and 2-6 on the road. The Racers play host to the last-place Evansville Aces on Saturday, Feb. 18. Tip oof is set for 3 p.m.


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