The Murray State Racers wrapped up the regular season by winning a share of the Ohio Valley Conference regular season championship with a 94-83 victory over the Austin Peay Governors on Senior Day at the CFSB Center in Murray, Kentucky.
On a night when Shaq Buchanan and Brion Sanchious were honored before their final game at the CFSB Center, a record crowd of 9,012 showed up and urged the Racers to their ninth-straight win. The Racers (25-4) close the OVC campaign 16-2, the same record they had a year ago when they were solo champs. The Racers share the title with Belmont who defeated Southeast Missouri 84-66.
Ja Morant flirted with a triple-double on 27 points, six rebounds and 13 assists. Shaq Buchanan
posted 19 points, while Darnell Cowart scored 15 points. Devin Gilmore came off the bench to add 12 points on 6-of-6 shooting.
In the first half, it was Gilmore providing a spark when Cowart got into some foul trouble. Gilmore had a four-minute segment in which he scored eight points, a pair of rebounds and blocked shots that erased an early APSU lead to tie the game 28-28 with 7:20 left in the half.
The Racers trailed 46-42 at the half.
The second half, the Racers took the lead for good on a jumper by Buchanan to make it 61-60 with 13:28 left. With 8:45 remaining, Buchanan had his own 7-0 run on four free throws and a 3-pointer and the Racers led 72-66. Jaiveon Eaves his a three to keep the Racers in the lead by seven points with 7:20 left.
Still, it was a three-point game when Morant hit a pair of free throws for an 84-79 lead with 2:20 left. But the Racers finished the game strong and pushed to their largest lead of the game in the final seconds, which led them to a final of 94-83.
The announced attendance of 9,012 tonight is the record for the CFSB Center, besting the 8,969 that watched the Racers play Belmont on Jan. 24. Four of the top-11 crowds in the 21 years of the arena happened this season.
The Racers get their 25th win of the season marking the ninth time in program history of 25 or more wins. The Racers have done it now in back-to-back seasons and four times in the last 10 seasons.
With the doubleheader sweep today for the Racer women's and men's teams over APSU, Murray State now leads the Heritage Bank Battle of the Border 24-9.
With 27 points and 13 assists today, Ja Morant continues to stretch his record of combined points/assists for single-season in which the player had at least 100 assists. Morant's total is 998. His 300 assists is already the single-season record at MSU and in the OVC and he moved from 30th to 13th all-time in NCAA D-I single-season assists. He's just the 13th player to have 300 assists in a season in NCAA D-I history.
Morant has only played two seasons, but his career assist total of 501 is getting very close to MSU all-time leader and MSU Hall of Famer Don Mann (1985-89) at 531. Morant's 698 points this season puts him in the top-10 all-time at MSU. He's No. 7. With two more points, he'll be the seventh Racer to score 700 points in a single-season.
The Racers have won or at least had a share of 26 OVC regular-season titles and have won six out of the last 10 and back-to-back. This one shared with Belmont, marks the first time the Racers had to share a title since the 1999-00 season when Tevester Anderson's team shared with SEMO with each team at 14-4.
The field is set for the OVC Men's Basketball Championship Presented by Visit Evansville at the Ford Center next week. The Racers are the No. 2 seed and play Friday (March 8) at 9 p.m. CT time. MSU is in same side of the bracket as Jacksonville State (No. 3), Eastern Illinois (No. 6) and UT Martin (No. 7).
First Round - Wednesday, March 6
Game 1 - #5 Morehead State vs. #8 SIUE, 6:30 p.m. (ESPN+)
Game 2 - #6 Eastern Illinois vs. #7 UT Martin, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN+)
Quarterfinals - Thursday, March 7
Game 3 - #4 Austin Peay vs. Game 1 Winner, 6:30 p.m. (ESPN+)
Game 4 - #3 Jacksonville State vs. Game 2 Winner, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN+)
Semifinals - Friday, March 8
Game 5 - #1 Belmont vs. Game 3 Winner, 7:00 p.m. (ESPNU)
Game 6 - #2 Murray State vs. Game 4 Winner, 9:00 p.m. (ESPNU)
Championship - Saturday, March 9
Game 7 - Semifinal Winners, 7:00 p.m. (ESPN2/Westwood One)
All Times Central