Senior forward Katelyn Young wins a jump ball against Little Rock.
Senior forward Katelyn Young wins a jump ball against Little Rock.
Rebeca Mertins Chiodini

Women’s basketball team takes the Valley by storm

Murray State women’s basketball almost matched their win total from last year just halfway through the 2023-24 season. 

After a difficult first year in the Missouri Valley Conference, the Racers finished the 2022-23 season with a 15-16 record overall and a conference record of 7-13. Head Coach Rechelle Turner knew changes needed to be made in order to contend with the top of the conference.

The Racers turned to a more physical approach in their second season in the MVC, looking to wear down opposing teams and generate opportunities for shots. 

“It’s a process,” Turner said before the season began. “It’s a decision that was made to try and get us to the top of The Valley quicker than we felt like we would if we just continued to play the same way. It’s a process that we’re recruiting to now because we feel like this is our best way to play in order to be successful.”

These changes have made an immediate impact on Turner’s team. As of Jan. 24, the Racers are second in the NCAA in average points per game with 91.6. Louisiana State University (LSU) currently leads the country in points per game, averaging 91.7, just .1 more than Murray State. If the Racers can continue their offensive onslaught, it could be a historic year for the program.

The MVC’s single-season scoring leader is the 1994-95 Drake Bulldogs, who averaged 83.5 points per game. At their current rate, this year’s Racers could shatter the prior conference record of points per game in a season by 10+ points per game.

Furthermore, Murray State is fifth in the NCAA in field goals attempted. They are averaging 70.5 shot attempts a game through the first 16 games of the season. With so many attempts, the Racers still have a team field goal percentage of 45.9%, the 33rd best in the nation. 

Not only has Turner’s new approach positively affected the Racers’ box score stats, the win-loss column has benefitted as well. 

Murray State currently sits at 12-4 this season with a conference record of 5-2. Two losses came against Power Five teams, and the other two losses came during the annual “Iowa trip,” making up the Racers’ four losses so far this season. 

The first loss of the year came in the first game of the season. Murray State faced off against the University of Arkansas Razorbacks on Nov. 10 in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and lost the matchup narrowly by a score of 82-79. The Razorbacks are 14-6 so far this season and defeated the nationally-ranked Florida State Seminoles a few weeks after defeating Murray State.

Murray State turned things around shortly after the loss, defeating Cumberland University 121-63 in their first home game of the year. The Indiana University Hoosiers then hosted the Racers on Nov. 17, and the Hoosiers won the game 112-79. Indiana was ranked #18 in the country at the time the two teams met, and they are #14.

After two losses in the first three games of the season, the Racers went on an 11-game winning streak. The first of those 11 wins came at home against Bellarmine University by a score of 108-78. Senior forward Katelyn Young led the Racers with 23 points, 11 rebounds and two assists.

Young went on a tear at the beginning of December, totaling 21 points and six rebounds, 31 points and seven rebounds and 29 points and 10 rebounds over a three-game span. Young leads the Racers in scoring and rebounds this season. Through 16 games, she is averaging 18.8 points per game and 7.9 rebounds. Young has earned the MVC Player of the Week award and is on the mid-season Becky Hammon Mid-Major Player of the Year watchlist.

Freshman guard Zoe Stewart puts up a floater against Austin Peay. (Rebeca Mertins Chiodini)

Sophomore guard Briley Pena has had a hot hand shooting the ball this season, with a 46% 3-point field goal percentage. Her season high came against Austin Peay, where she had 24 points. She later earned MVC Player of the Week on Jan. 8 after she averaged 16.5 points and 61% from behind the arch. 

In the Dec. 30 matchup between Murray State and the Valparaiso Beacons, it was a true team effort to achieve a 28-point win in the conference opener. Junior forward Ava Learn led the Racers in scoring with 15 points. She had four rebounds as well. 

Learn came off of the bench in the win over the Beacons. The Racers’ starting five has had a lot of success this season, but their bench has been where they have really shined. As of writing, the Racers lead the nation in points per game from the bench, averaging 41.0 points a game.

Learn has not started a game this season but is second in points per game on the Racers. She has averaged 12.4 points and 5.6 rebounds a game, all coming from off of the bench. Learn transferred this summer from Purdue University and has instantly become a contributor to her team. She earned MVC Newcomer of the Week on Jan. 15 after averaging 11 points and 7.5 rebounds over two games.

“We run so fast, we need those subs coming in,” Learn said. “The fact we can come in and score as much as we do, as people coming off of the bench, I think is amazing.”

There was more cause for celebration that week, as senior forward Hannah McKay earned her 1000th collegiate point as a Racer in a win over Evansville on Jan. 14. McKay is third on the team in scoring, averaging 10.9 points and 6.4 rebounds a game. 

The Racers’ two most recent games were losses. Murray State lost 95-75 to the University of Northern Iowa on Jan. 19, where they turned over the ball 17 times. Northern Iowa also made 50% of their field goals. 

Murray State had success offensively against Drake in the Jan. 21 matchup, going 49.3% from the field. The Racers had no answer for Drake senior forward Grace Berg, who put up 30 points in the 107-98 win over Murray State. 

The Racers will look to keep the momentum from the first half of the season going. Now, it’s about who can step up to that next level of leadership and lead by example on the court.

This Racers team has the essence of something special. Their offense has been fantastic, on the way to being historic. Murray State has entered the portion of their schedule where they began to unravel last year. If they can play tough and physical defense against MVC foes, they have a great claim for the MVC Championship. 


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