MURRAY, Ky. – Jacksonville State adapted on defense and did all it could to slow down No. 15 Murray State.
After a nip-and-tuck first half, it wasn't enough. But coach James Green was happy with his team's effort.
"In the past we haven't been able to change and adjust defenses to people we've played, so I'm really proud of our guys for doing that," he said.
Donte Poole had 21 points and three steals to lead Murray State to a 66-55 victory Thursday night, giving the unbeaten Racers the best start in school history.
Ed Daniel added 11 points, nine rebounds and three blocks for the Racers (17-0, 5-0 Ohio Valley Conference). Murray State is one of three undefeated teams in Division I, joining No. 1 Syracuse and No. 4 Baylor.
"Great seasons develop, you don't forecast a season," Racers coach Steve Prohm said. "The biggest thing that I'm about as a coach is I want our chemistry to be great. I want these players to know I care about them, trust them, love them and that they've got to feel that same way about their teammates."
Brian Williams led Jacksonville State with 18 points.
The Gamecocks (6-13, 1-5) never led in the first half and Murray State went into the break up by three after shooting 34.8 percent.
Green said one thing was keeping his squad from winning.
"Having Isaiah Canaan on my team," he said.
Canaan was scoreless in the first half, but he fired up the crowd with a dunk at the 15-minute mark of the second half.
With 5 minutes remaining, Murray State opened a 13-point margin and pulled away. Fans began chanting "Undefeated!" with 40 seconds to go.
Green said Prohm's success in his rookie season is not surprising.
"The biggest thing, and I've told Steve this, is that I think the players have a lot of respect for him, but they like him a lot, too, and they trust him and play hard for him," Green said. "So they had a chance to have this kind of success. It wasn't guaranteed, but because of the atmosphere that he had created as an assistant coach for these guys (it) gave him that opportunity as a head coach and I think he's done a great job with strategy and in-game coaching.
"I think he's done a really great job and I'm proud of him. If there is anybody that I pull for it would be him; he's worked since the time he was in college and as an assistant and he's paid a lot of dues."
Jacksonville State committed 10 more fouls than the Racers, who forced 20 turnovers. Both teams got 16 points from the bench.
Despite their early struggles, the Racers never gave up the lead. They allowed the Gamecocks to tie it three times.
"We missed some open 3s, we missed free throws from people who need to make them and when we had chances to extend the lead, we didn't," Prohm said. "It's not going to be pretty every night, and I'm proud of my guys' resiliency and ability to compete and stay in there and win the basketball game."
Ivan Aska, who led the Racers in rebounding before breaking his hand two weeks ago, was on the bench in street clothes and a cast. He spent the game yelling encouragement to his teammates.
The Racers host Tennessee Tech on Saturday before a sold-out crowd. Jacksonville goes on the road to play Austin Peay.