Murray State true freshman guard Cameron Payne scored 23 points and the Racer men's basketball team used a 10-0 first-half run en route to a 69-58 victory over Morehead State at the CFSB Center Saturday night (Feb. 22).
The Racers, who have won 11 straight home games and are now 13-1 on their home court this season, moved to 17-9 overall and 12-2 in the Ohio Valley Conference. Murray State has already clinched the league's West Division and a double-bye into the OVC Tournament semifinals.
The Eagles saw their five-game winning streak halted and fell to 19-10 overall, 10-4 in the conference and 9-6 on the road. Morehead State can still secure as high as the third seed for the OVC Tournament, and the Eagles are already guaranteed at least one bye. Murray State, which leads the all-time series 106-47, won for the ninth consecutive time against the Eagles on its home court.
"There is a reason why Murray State is good every year," Head Coach Sean Woods said. "You have to be firing on all cylinders when you play here. Our guys gave me everything they had though. This could have been a lot uglier than it was."
Murray State misfired on its first two field goals but then drained five straight. Senior Drew Kelly opened the game with a three-pointer 30 seconds in, but the Racers scored the next 10 and never looked back.
The Eagles cut the deficit to 15-10 at the 12:34 mark of the first half, but the hosts constructed an 18-7 scoring flurry over the next 10 minutes to build their largest margin of the period, 38-17. Murray State led 40-23 at the break.
Morehead State started the second half on an 8-0 run to trim the deficit to nine at the 17:07 mark, but the hosts used an 11-0 run over a four-minute span to move their cushion to 55-35. The Racers' largest lead was 24.
"I thought we just ran out of gas," Woods said. "Our guys fought as hard as we possibly could. We got open shots, but we just didn't knock them down. Murray State did what they were supposed to do at home."
Payne registered 18 of his points in the first half. The Racers also got 15 from sophomore Jeffery Moss, 13 from junior Jarvis Williams and 10 from senior Dexter Fields. Junior transfer Jonathan Fairell collected a game-best 11 rebounds.
Morehead State junior Angelo Warner notched a team-high 18 points for his 55th career double-figure effort and 26th this season. Senior Chad Posthumus, who ranks second in the nation in rebounds per game, corralled a team-best nine. He also added 14 points, hitting 7-of-9 from the floor, for his 17th double-figure contest this year.
The Eagles edged the hosts in rebounding, 31-30. Morehead State has still only been out-rebounded once in 29 games this season. Murray State shot 51 percent (24-of-47) overall and outscored the Eagles 15-4 at the free throw line. Morehead State finished at 42 percent (25-of-59) overall but hit only 4-of-21 from three-point range. The Eagles held advantages in points in the paint (40-28) and bench scoring (23-2).
Morehead State returns home for its final two games of the regular season. The Eagles host Tennessee State on Thursday (Feb. 27) at 7:30 p.m., following the MSU-TSU women's contest. That night is Think Pink at Johnson Arena. The regular season finale is set for Saturday (March 1) versus Tennessee Tech at 7:30 p.m. Posthumus and Kelly will be honored for Senior Night prior to tipoff.
"We are going to take a few days off because our guys are tired," Woods said. "We need some rest because we want to be as ready as we can for the final two home games. We want to have some great momentum heading into the tournament."