Murray State (17-9) at Tennessee-Martin (8-21)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, February 27, 8 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Elam Center (5,000) -- Martin, Tennessee. Television: OVC Digital Network. Home Record: MSU 13-1, UTM 5-8. Away Record: MSU 4-8, UTM 3-13. Neutral Record: MSU 0-0, UTM 0-0. Conference Record: MSU 12-2, UTM 3-11. Series Record: Murray State leads, 43-3.
GAME NOTES: Two teams at opposite ends of the Ohio Valley Conference standings meet on Thursday night, as the Tennessee-Martin Skyhawks host the Murray State Racers at the Elam Center.
The Racers have won four straight and seven of their last eight. They have clinched the West Division title and are tied with East Division leader Belmont for the best record in the OVC. In their last outing, they downed Morehead State, 69-58.
UTM has lost two in a row, and six of it last seven overall, including a heartbreaker at SEMO this past Saturday, 77-74. As a result, the Skyhawks are in last place in the West Division.
This is a decidedly one-sided rivalry, with the Racers holding a 43-3 mark all-time against the Skyhawks, including 19-3 in Martin. Murray State won the previous meeting this season, a 91-77 decision in Murray.
Cameron Payne netted a game-high 23 points and connected on 4-of-7 shots from 3-point range, as the Racers cruised past the Morehead State Eagles last Saturday. Jeffery Moss added 15 points, while Jarvis Williams chipped in with 13, to go with six boards and three blocked shots. Dexter Fields added 10 points, and Jonathan Fairell pulled down a team-high 11 rebounds in the win. Murray State came out firing in the first half, netting 57.7 percent of its field goal tries, going 5-of-12 from 3-point distance. The Racers took a 40-23 lead into intermission after Morehead State connected on only 36 percent of its shots in the frame and the Eagles never really challenged in the second half.
Cameron Payne may be the leading scorer overall for the Racers with his 15.5 ppg, adding a team-high 142 assists, but he is shooting only 39.1 percent from the floor at the moment. Williams is much more accurate from the field at 63.4 percent, much of that having to do with the fact that he is always close to the rim and has 96 offensive rebounds himself. Williams is averaging 14.1 ppg and 10.3 rpg, one of only a few of players in the nation averaging a double- double. T.J. Sapp (13.2 ppg) and Jeffery Moss (13.0 ppg) round out the potent scoring attack for the Racers. As a unit, Murray State is scoring 75.5 ppg while permitting 70.8 ppg.
The Skyhawks were paced by Terence Smith with 23 points, shooting 5-of-7 beyond the arc, followed by Dee Oldham and Marshun Newell with 19 and 16 points, respectively, in their recent loss to SEMO. UTM trailed at the break, 35-28, but used 53.1 percent accuracy from the floor, including 6-of-13 out on the perimeter, to surge ahead by eight about seven minutes into the frame. After SEMO battled back, a pair of free throws by Oldham knotted the score at 74-74 with four seconds remaining, and Antonius Cleveland launched a desperation heave from halfcourt for the game-winner for the visitors.
Myles Taylor leads the Skyhawks in scoring with 14.8 ppg, the ninth-best average in the OVC. Smith adds 14.6 ppg, Liabo 12.5 ppg and Newell 11.1 ppg for the Skyhawks, who average 74.1 ppg but yield more than 81 ppg.
With little to play for except pride, it's hard to see the Skyhawks being able to pull off the upset here. The Racers are still gunning for the top seed in the OVC Tournament, so expect them to bring their "A game" and to go home with a win.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Murray State 77, Tennessee-Martin 65
02/27 10:52:37 ET