Junior guard JaCobi Wood drives past a Valparaiso defender to score in the first round of the MVC tournament.
Junior guard JaCobi Wood drives past a Valparaiso defender to score in the first round of the MVC tournament.

PREVIEW: Men’s team sets high expectations

After a 17-15 record last season and a quarterfinal exit against Drake in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament, Murray State men’s basketball looks to improve in the 2023-24 season.

The 22-23 season showed promise early on as the Racers defeated a ranked Texas A&M team three games into the season, but an 11-9 conference record and 3-11 record on the road led to a disappointing end.

This season, the Racers brought in new players to improve the roster and kept some key players from last year.

Senior guards Quincy Anderson and Rob Perry return for the Racers along with junior guards JaCobi Wood and Brian Moore Jr.

Perry started all 32 games last season, averaging a team high 14.4 point per game as well as 4.8 rebounds per game.

Perry said before the Racers’ first practice in September after last season, the program needs to get back on track.

“Murray State is all about winning,” Perry said. “I think this program needs to get back to where it’s supposed to be and I think that this team is very capable of doing that. We’ve got the right pieces, so I think it’ll get done.”

Perry said this group has a potential that should exceed what other teams may think about the Racers. He also discussed  the expectations of the team this year and the potential this group has should exceed what other teams may think of the Racers.

“Knowing that we have what it takes to win and that everything is full circle, regardless of where we are at, we’ve got here what we need to win and get the job done,” Perry said. “We gotta get back to what the standard is.”

Wood started every game last season, averaging 10.6 points per game and a team high 4.6 assists per game. He said he’s taking more of a leadership role and working on being more of a  facilitator rather than three-point-specialist.

“I’m embracing my leadership role this year,” Wood said. “Last year, I took a backseat to that since there were a lot of new guys. This year, I’m the main point guard on the team, it’s my team in a way. So I have to really embrace that role and communicate with everyone.”

The new faces this year are junior forward Nick Ellington, senior guard Shawn Walker, freshman guard Lawrent Rice, junior forward Alden Applewhite, freshman forward John McCrear, freshman guard Fletcher Boatright and junior forward Malek Abdelgowad.

Wood discussed how the returning players have been getting the new faces acclimated to the culture at Murray State. He said it’s gone great and the new guys have really responded to what they’ve been taught so far.

“They listen really well, they embrace everything,” Wood said. “When they do something wrong, they come up and ask and try to get better. That’s the main thing you wanna see from new guys.”

Senior guard Quincy Anderson surveys the court during the MVC Tournament. (Rebeca Mertins Chiodini)

The season kicks off with three straight home games, including games against former Ohio Valley Conference opponent Tennessee Tech on Friday, Nov. 10, and a game against Western Kentucky University on Tuesday, Nov. 14. Both games are set to tipoff at 7 p.m.

After a trip to the Fort Myers Tip-Off, the Racers return home to start Missouri Valley Conference play against Bradley on Wednesday, Nov. 29, at 7 p.m.

After the first two MVC games, the Racers will take a six-game hiatus from conference play, including the Battle of the Border game at Austin Peay State University on Saturday, Dec. 9. Game time is set for 6:15 p.m.

MVC games resume on Tuesday, Jan. 2, when the Racers take on University of Illinois Chicago in the CFSB Center.

On Saturday, Jan. 27, Murray State welcomes the Southern Illinois Salukis to town. The Salukis finished third in the MVC regular season standings last season, and things got heated last time the two teams played each other in Carbondale, Illinois. Both games between the Racers and Salukis will be games to watch for years to come.

Murray State travels to take on longtime rival Belmont on Wednesday, Feb. 7, then host the Bruins on Wednesday, Feb. 28, which is Murray State’s final home game of the season.

The Racers only take on the defending MVC Tournament champions once this season, traveling to take on the Drake Bulldogs on Feb. 18. 

The regular season wraps up on Sunday, March 3, when the Racers head to Terre Haute, Indiana to take on the Sycamores of Indiana State.

The MVC Tournament is set to tipoff on Thursday, March 7, in St. Louis, Missouri. The championship game will be on Sunday, March 10, and decides who gets the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

The season looks bright for Murray State, with top players returning and new faces looking to make a big impact. But it all rests on the players shoulders as their season gets rolling this week.


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