The Murray State Racers overcame a 14-point halftime deficit and a three hour delay to defeat the Austin Peay Governors 73-64 Saturday to clinch the outright Ohio Valley Conference regular season championship in the season finale played at the Dunn Center in Clarksville, Tennessee.
Pushing their winning streak to 11, the Racers (24-5) finished 16-2 in league play for their 25th
OVC title, tops in the history of the league. The Racers will be the top seed in next week's OVC Tournament which goes to the Ford Center in Evansville, Indiana for the first time.
The win didn't come easy though. The Racers limped into halftime trailing the Governors 37-23, but like flipping a switch, the Racers surged into the lead in the second half with a run of 38-14 to take a 61-51 lead with 7:00 remaining. When the game was halted by the storm and the hole in the roof of the Dunn Center that it produced, the Racers had hit 12-of-12 from 2-point range in the half and three 3-pointers, while holding APSU to 6-of-12 shooting and dominating the boards 16-3.
Lightning or some other debris struck the roof of the Dunn Center at 9:02 p.m. There was a tornado warning at that time in Montgomery County and a loud boom was heard in the arena. Some debris and dust fell to the floor and then water started coming in and landing at the baseline area across from the Racers' bench. The game was stopped with 5:49 remaining and the Racers leading the Govs 62-53. After a delay of three hours, the game was resumed at just past 11:30 p.m.
The big play after resumption of the game came when Stark hit his fourth 3-pointer of the game to give the Racers a 72-62 lead with 59 seconds left. A good number of Racer fans stayed for the end and they were rewarded by the players going into the stands to celebrate the championship with them.
Stark had his fourth 30-point scoring game with 31, while Ja Morant added 14 points and nine rebounds. Terrell Miller, who battled foul trouble with a pair of them before the first media timeout, scored eight points and had a game-high 12 rebounds. Anthony Smith scored 10 points as did Shaw Buchanan.
With a nine-point lead when the game was resumed, the Racers brought home the win in the final 5:49 by hitting 8-of-10 from the free throw line and getting one field goal, the 3-pointer from Stark with about a minute remaining.
MSU's second half included outscoring APSU 50-27 in which they hit 76 percent from the field on 16-of-21 shots.
MSU has it's 25th OVC regular season title and their first since the 2014-15 season.
With the strange night that it was, the question was brought up on if the Racers had ever started a game on one day and finished it on the next? The answer is yes. It was New Year's Eve 1991. The Racers hosted Arkansas State on Dec. 31 and celebrated at midnight and then played the second half on Jan. 1, 1992. ASU won the game 63-59.
MSU's Jonathan Stark became the all-time two-year scorer in Racer history today with his 31-point performance. Stark now has 1,353. He's certainly in great company having passed De'Teri Mayes (1996-98) who had 1,340 points in 63 games and Cameron Payne (2013-15) who had 1,279 in 69 games. Stark has done it in his 62ndgame.
Terrell Miller is closing on joining Stark as members of the MSU 1000-Point Club. With his eight points today, he now has 956.
The Racers push their win streak to 11 in a row. At the start of the day, there were only four teams with winning streaks of 10 or more. But Grambling had their 11-game streak stopped in a loss to Pine Bluff and College of Charleston lost its 10-game run in overtime to Williams & Mary. The Racers are now tied with Michigan State and Gonzaga for the longest streak in the nation at 11-straight.
The Racers complete the regular season with 24 wins with post-season play still to come. Here are the most recent 20-win seasons for the Racers and the records for each.
2017-18, 24-5, 16-2 OVC (Coach McMahon)
2014-15, 29-6, 16-0 OVC (Coach Prohm)
2013-14, 23-11, 17-1 OVC (Coach Prohm)
2012-13, 21-10, 10-6 OVC (Coach Prohm)
2011-12, 31-2, 15-1 OVC (Coach Prohm)
2010-11, 23-9, 14-4 OVC (Coach Kennedy)
2009-10, 31-5, 17-1 OVC (Coach Kennedy)
2005-06, 24-7, 17-3 OVC (Coach Cronin)
2003-04, 28-6, 14-2 OVC (Coach Cronin)
The Racers are the No. 1 seed and are locked into playing the first semifinal game Friday (March 2) at 7 p.m. CT. MSU's opponent will begin to be determined on Wednesday when No. 8 SIUE takes on No. 5 Tennessee Tech. The winner will meet No. 4 seed Jacksonville State on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. The winner will meet the Racers in the semifinals.
The day was another chapter in the season-long Heritage Bank Battle of the Border between the rivals of Murray State and Austin Peay. After the MSU women's team lost in the first game of the day, the men's team won. The MSU women's track & field team also went head to head against the Govs at the OVC Indoor Championships in Charleston, Ill., where they finished fourth place, with the Govs in seventh. In the points system used for the competition, the games and meet were worth three points each. Murray State now leads 21-12. The competitions that remain in the spring include the OVC golf, tennis and outdoor championships, plus head to head meetings in baseball and softball.