Southeast Missouri State (15-15) at Murray State (20-8)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, March 2, 8:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: CFSB Center (8,600) -- Murray, Kentucky. Television: None. Home Record: SEMO 9-5, MSU 10-3. Away Record: SEMO 6-8, MSU 8-4. Neutral Record: SEMO 0-2, MSU 2-1. Conference Record: SEMO 7-8, MSU 10-5. Series Record: Murray State leads, 47-18.
GAME NOTES: The top two teams in the Ohio Valley Conference's West Division will close out their regular season as the SE Missouri State Redhawks invade the CFSB Center to take on the suddenly struggling Murray State Racers.
SEMO snapped a two-game losing slide on Thursday as it completed a 108-81 rout of the Austin Peay Governors. The victory lifted the Redhawks the .500 mark for the season and just one game below it in OVC play. SEMO has a very balanced attack that features four players with double-digit scoring averages. Tyler Stone is leading the way with 15.4 points and 7.8 rebounds per game while Nino Johnson posts 11 ppg to go along with team-bests of 9.2 boards and 2.6 blocks per tilt. SEMO will be the No. 7 seed in the upcoming OVC tourney.
The Redhawks' balanced offense was apparent in its lopsided win over APSU. Corey Wilford led six players in double figures with 26 points on 8-of-12 shooting from 3-point range. Stone and Nick Niemczyk went for 20 and 19 points off the bench, respectively, while Johnson registered a double-double of 12 points and 14 rebounds. Marland Smith had 14 points and six assists, Lucas Nutt went scoreless but dished out nine assists and Jared White had 10 points off the bench. With the team firing on all cylinders consistently, the Redhawks have managed to score 73.8 ppg on 46.9 percent shooting from the field.
Murray State has dominated its rivalry with SEMO to build a 47-18 all-time series lead. The Racers rallied from a six-point deficit to down the Redhawks in Cape Girardeau on Jan. 5 in the first part of this season's series.
The Racers seemed to be gaining some momentum heading into the postseason as they downed a tough South Dakota State squad by 11 points in the BracketBusters event last weekend, but the triumph went to waste when they were upset, 69-68, by the Tennessee-Martin Skyhawks, who entered the contest with an abysmal 8-19 overall record. Murray State has clinched the West Division crown already, but it is currently tied for third place in the overall league standings with Tennessee State, which plays the second place Eastern Kentucky Colonels on Saturday. The Racers own the tie-breaker over the Tigers thanks to their win in their lone bout on Feb. 9, which means Murray State will clinch the No. 3 seed with a win or a TSU loss.
Steve Prohm has a pair of superstars on his roster in Isaiah Canaan and Ed Daniel, but the rest of the Racers have been inconsistent. Canaan (21.5 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 4.1 apg) is the engine to the Racers's operation. The senior point guard is among the top 10 scorers in the nation, while finding time to facilitate the offense. Murray State relies on an offense that focuses on production from the backcourt. Stacy Wilson (13.1 ppg) is another double- figure scorer in the four-guard rotation, but he submitted the worst performance of his career in the loss to UTM, going 0-of-8 from the floor and committing five turnovers. Daniel (13.6 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 1.6 bpg) gives the team a frontcourt threat as he plays with a physical style similar to former NBA star Ben Wallace to lock down the paint.
The Racers are usually more talented than their conference rivals, but they continue to display poor ball control to allow lesser teams to challenge them. Murray State will need to get into a good habit of playing smart basketball on the offensive end if it has any hopes of succeeding in the postseason. It should be hungry for a win after enduring an embarrassing loss to UTM.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Murray State 76, Southeast Missouri State 70
03/02 10:46:37 ET