By KEVIN WEAKS
UT Martin was able to get close to Murray State at the end — thanks in some part to the Racers themselves.
MSU led from wire-to-wire, building its advantage to as many as 24 points midway through the second half, and then coasted home with a lineup of reserves for a 73-62 win in their Ohio Valley Conference men’s game Thursday night at the Elam Center.
The Racers ended a two-game losing streak, improving to 10-3 overall. It was Murray’s first OVC game of the season, the win marking the 600th all-time for the Racer program. MSU is a charter member of the OVC, which started in 1948.
UTM, meanwhile, dropped to 3-12 overall and 0-3 in the conference.
“We played a lot harder than the last time we were in this gym (64-54 loss to Jacksonville State on Monday),” James said. “We competed. We had some silly mistakes but, overall, our effort was good. We showed up, we were engaged mentally and ready to go. I thought we competed very well.”
Murray State set the tone early, finding the range after a terribly slow start for both teams to grab a 15-4 lead.
After the Skyhawks pulled within 18-13, the MSU scored 12 straight points to build a 31-13 lead and eventually carried a 33-19 advantage into intermission.
The Racers continued to widen the gap in the second half, reaching 56-32 at 11:45.
While MSU went to its bench early and often, ultimately using 12 players with 11 logging at least 11 minutes of playing time, the Skyhawks could get no closer than the 11-point final margin.
While senior guard Isaiah Canaan is the undisputed leader of the Racer squad, he had plenty of help in taking control of the game early.
Namely, Stacy Wilson.
Also a senior guard, Wilson ignited the run that pretty much decided the game as he scored 10 of the 12 points that turned Murray State’s 19-13 lead at 8:45 of the first half into a cushy 31-13 just over four minutes later.
He started the run with three free throws. Then, following a layup by Tyler Rambo, Wilson knocked down a 3-pointer, scored in the lane and went in for a layup to cap off the scoring spree at 4:18.
Wilson scored the game’s first points, a jumper just 36 seconds into action. But, it took nearly three minutes for the next basket, UTM’s Jeremy Washington tying it with a layup.
Canaan then scored seven points, including a 3-pointer, as Murray State built a 15-4 lead.
Mike Liabo knocked down a triple, and Terence Smith hit four times at the line to get the Skyhawks back within six points, but Wilson’s run all but put the game away before intermission.
Wilson finished with 16 points, second to Canaan’s game-high 18. Jeffery Moss had 14 points in 25 minutes off the bench.
Baskets inside by Myles Taylor and Washington had UT Martin within 10 at 33-23 to begin the second half, but the Racers then took over by outscoring UTM 23-9.
Canaan pushed the margin past the 20-point mark with 14 minutes to play, following a 3-pointer with a steal and layup for a 51-30 lead that sent in the non-starters for good.
Despite Racer head coach Steve Prohm’s liberal use of his reserves throughout the game, UT Martin dominated the bench points statistic with 38 to the Racers’ 26.
Credit Liabo and Smith for the majority of those Skyhawk points, Liabo with a team-best 12 points and Smith with 10.
“I thought Mike played OK,” James said. “He was efficient, good running off those screens on the baseline. It was good to see Bobby (Jones) make a couple free throws late in the game. Terence played all right. I think, for the first this year, he looked like Terence a little bit. He was amped up and ready to play, the way most guys get ready to play against Murray.”
Taylor, who held his own inside against Murray State’s Ed Daniel, finished with 11 points and seven rebounds. Daniel missed two dunks but was powerful under the glass with a game-high 11 rebounds.
Published in The Messenger 1.4.13