Photo and story by Murray State Athletics
The Murray State Racers used a gutsy second half to defeat the Belmont Bruins 77-65 for the championship of the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament, which pushes the Racers to their 17th appearance in the NCAA Tournament. The Racers’ 27th win of the season came in front a tournament record crowd of 10,525.
Ja Morant became the OVC Tournament MVP after he capped a two-day performance with 36 points scored on 13-of-25 shooting to go with seven rebounds and seven assists. Tevin Brown added 12 points on 2-of-4 3-point shooting and Darnell Cowart added 11 points on 5-of-9 shooting. KJ Williams pulled down 11 rebounds and was one point from a double-double.
Trailing 31-26 at the halftime break, the Racers were down by six with 16:44 remaining when they hit the Bruins with a 14-2 run. The Racers reversed their deficit and turned it into a six-point lead at 48-42 with 13:51 left. Every time the Bruins made a run, the Racers had the answer. Morant scored six-straight points to keep MSU in front 58-53 at 8:50. Cowart scored for a seven-point lead with 8:08 left, before the Bruins made their last drive to regain the lead and they did with 3:52 left for a 63-62 lead. The lead lasted exactly 18 seconds before Morant scored at 3:34 and MSU never trailed again. Brown hit a three for a 71-65 lead with 1:21 left and the Racers went on to the 77-65 final.
The Racers are on to their 17th appearance in the NCAA Tournament and their first in back-to-back season since they won three in a row from 1997-98. Those titles came under Coach Mark Gottfried and Coach Tevester Anderson teams.
MSU is now 71-37 all-time in the OVC Tournament and have won four games in a row and six of their last seven.
The Racers are 17-11 all-time in the OVC Tournament championship game and have defeated Belmont for a second straight year. Including today, the Racers’ last four appearances in the OVC Tournament final have all come against Belmont. Belmont won the first two in 2013 and 2015 and now the Racers have won the last two in 2018 and 2019.
Ja Morant was joined on the OVC All-Tournament Team along with teammate Darnell Cowart. Morant becomes MSU’s 16th OVC Tournament MVP. He joins Popeye Jones (1990) and Lamont Sleets (1981) as the only sophomores for the Racers that have been honored with the award.
MSU OVC TOURNAMENT MVP SELECTIONS
Year Player Class
1981 Lamont Sleets So.
1988 Jeff Martin Jr.
1990 Popeye Jones So.
1991 Popeye Jones Jr.
1992 Popeye Jones Sr.
1995 Marcus Brown Jr.
1997 Chad Townsend Jr.
1998 Chad Townsend Sr.
1999 Aubrey Reese Jr.
2002 Justin Burdine Sr.
2004 Cuthbert Victor Sr.
2006 Pearson Griffith Sr.
2010 Isaiah Canaan Fr.
2012 Donte Poole Sr.
2018 Jonathan Stark Sr.
2019 Ja Morant So.
The MVP award began in 1975
The Racers now have the week to wait until NCAA Selection Sunday when their first game assignment will be made known. Stay tuned to GoRacers.com for plans on how fans can experience the day with the team at the CFSB Center.