Photo and story by Murray State Athletics; video by Murray State University Digital Media Services
EVANSVILLE, Indiana – The Murray State Racers earned their first trip to the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament with a 68-51 victory Saturday over the Belmont Bruins to win the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament at the Ford Center in Evansville, Indiana.
The Racers (26-5) won for the 13th straight time this season (now the longest in the nation after Michigan State lost to Michigan in the Big 10 Tournament) and take their first OVC title since 2012. MSU has won 16 OVC Tournaments and will make a trip to the NCAA Tournament for the same 16th time. It’s the first NCAA trip for Murray State head coach Matt McMahon who is now 58-36 in his third season with the Racers.
Trailing 41-37 with 14:44 remaining, the Racers finally got their offensive motor revved up and it turned out to be a game-changer.
Having combined for 0-of-9 from the 3-point line to start the game, Jonathan Stark and Terrell Miller hit their first of the game at the 9:38 mark and at the 5:52 mark. After starting the day 2-of-17 from the 3-point line, the Racers hit 7-of-14 in the final 16 minutes of the game. By the time Shaq Buchanan hit two threes, the Racers had a 68-49 lead with 2:24 left. MSU outscored Belmont 39-19 in the second half by hitting 13-of-30 from the field and holding the Bruins to 7-of-25. MSU hit seven 3-pointers in the second half and the Bruins only managed 1-of-11.
The Racers’ second half surge was quite a contrast from the first half when they were 2-of-15 from the 3-point line and went into the intermission down 32-29.
In the first staging of the OVC Tournament at the Ford Center, Racer Nation came out in droves and turned the semifinals on Friday and the Saturday championship into an amazing atmosphere. The championship attendance was listed at 4,280.
When the trophy and awards were handed out after the game and the nets were cut down, the Racers saw OVC Regular Season MVP, Jonathan Stark, get named OVC Tournament MVP after he scored 46 points in two days. Terrell Miller, Jr., and Ja Morant were also named to the OVC All-Tournament Team. Stark scored 16 of his 24 points in the second half, while Morant scored 15 points with 11 each coming from Miller and Buchanan.
The Racers ended the day outscoring Belmont 9-6 from the 3-point line and they won the rebound stat 43-35. MSU only committed six turnovers and forced the Bruins into 13.
The Murray State Racers earned their first trip to the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament with a 68-51 victory Saturday over the Belmont Bruins to win the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament at the Ford Center in Evansville, Indiana.