Belmont now knows road to OVC crown runs through Murray
Posted: Friday, February 8, 2013 7:00 pm
MURRAY (AP) — Belmont coach Rick Byrd said the best team won Thursday night.
Unfortunately for Byrd, that team wasn’t his.
Isaiah Canaan had 26 points and six assists as Murray State took down Belmont 79-74 Thursday night, spoiling the Bruins’ perfect Ohio Valley Conference record.
“I really felt like the team that played the best won the game and deserved to win the game,” Byrd said. “I was hoping obviously when we made our run that it would turn our way, but I think it would have been a shame because I think Murray State was the best basketball team.”
Stacy Wilson added 16 points for Murray State (17-5, 8-2), which led in rebounds 32-26 and forced the Bruins into 12 turnovers.
Belmont (19-5, 10-1) shot 51.9 percent (28-of-54) from the floor and 42.9 percent (9-of-21) behind the arc.
Ian Clark led Belmont’s scoring with 22.
“I don’t know exactly how to put it, but we needed this game,” said Murray State coach Steve Prohm. “We needed this game to test us and see where we’re at and they responded like I thought they would. If you’ve been in here the whole season, there was a different vibe out there tonight. It reminded me of last year with the atmosphere and emotion, the big plays and our intensity.”
With 2 minutes to go, the Bruins threatened to overtake the Racers with a 17-7 run, coming as close as three points.
Aggressive steals and plays worked in the Bruins’ favor as a 3-pointer by Clark tied the game at 74 with 58 seconds to go before Canaan answered with a trey of his own.
“Down to the wire, they didn’t give up,” Canaan said. “When we (were) up 12 with 2 minutes left, they kept fighting and (Clark) stepped up and made two big shots and I knew I needed to do something to get us over the hill because we wanted this game. We just wanted to win at home against another great team and the shot fell.”
A Bruins turnover with 25 seconds remaining gave Murray State the ball. After that, Canaan and Ed Daniel each went to the line and made one of two free throws.
Less than 5 minutes into the game Murray State went on a 14-4 run that began and ended with Wilson layups, pushing the score to 21-12.
After the Bruins garnered a layup and two free throws, the Racers took off again. Back-to-back 3-pointers from Wilson put Murray State on top by 14.
The Racers led 36-26 at the half.
“They are a very good team,” Wilson said. “They have a lot of good players and good offense, but we came out to play our game and that’s what we did and we came and got a win.”
Canaan, who connected on his first 3-pointer 2:45 into the game, extended his school-record streak of games with a made 3-pointer to 31.
However, Canaan wasn’t Murray State’s only 3-point shooter — five of the eight Racers who played made at least one.
“I always tell them after each game that (the shots) are going to fall eventually and we work on them every day at practice,” Canaan said.
Both teams lead their respective divisions in the OVC, with Belmont controlling the East and Murray the West.
The contest marked career game No. 1,000 for Belmont coach Rick Byrd.
The meeting was the first between the teams since 2007, when the Bruins topped the Racers 84-67.
Published in The Messenger 2.8.13