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Eastern Illinois' upset bid falls short 73-58

After losing to No. 11 Murray State, Eastern Illinois coach Mike Miller was only worried about one thing.

"The only thing I'm worried about is playing better," Miller said.

Joey Miller had 17 points and four rebounds for the Panthers (9-11, 2-6) but it wasn't enough to hold off the unbeaten Racers, who topped Eastern Illinois 73-58 Saturday night.

"It's kind of difficult (to control the tempo against the Racers), because they can shoot, drive, they've got pulse so it's very difficult," Alfonzo McKinnie, who had 13 points and six rebounds for the Panthers, said.

The Panthers are on a five-game losing streak.

"What we're going to have to do is turn ourselves around," Miller said. "The way we were playing in early January and parts of December is the way we need to play and we haven't been able to consistently do that so that's our challenge. If we will do that then I think we'll be fine and take care of what we need to take care of. We've not one time talked about winning this game or that game, the only thing I want to do is win as many games as I can. The way that's going to happen is for us to play better."

Donte Poole and Isaiah Canaan each scored 18 points and Murray State remained the only unbeaten team in Division I.

Poole also had six assists and four rebounds while Ed Daniel grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds for the Racers (21-0, 9-0 Ohio Valley Conference).

Murray State tied the OVC record for longest winning streak set by Western Kentucky with 21 consecutive victories in 1953-54 and 1966-67.

"I just try to stay aggressive," Poole said. "I think when you come out on your heels and aren't aggressive that could force you to play passive and you don't really want to play that way with anyone, no matter what they're running on the defensive end, myself and everyone else on the court needs to be in attack mode."

Racers coach Steve Prohm matched Columbia's Lou Rossini (1950-51) for the third-best start to a season by a first-year coach.

The previous time Eastern Illinois played in the CFSB Center it beat Murray State by one point. Since that game last January, the Racers are undefeated at home.

"(The Racers) do such a good job of moving the ball," Miller said. "I would guess if you go back and watch them, they find the right guy a high, high percentage of the time. I think offense is a lot of that, a lot of people can't do it and I think they have guys who really do it, even their post players, I think They have great awareness for each other and I think the ability to make the play."

Ivan Aska, who broke his right hand Dec. 30 against Eastern Illinois, came off the bench to a standing ovation with 14 minutes remaining in the first half and hit a layup less than a minute later.

He ended the game with eight points and three rebounds in 21 minutes.

"I thought (Aska) did good," Prohm said. "He sat down with me on the bench and said, 'Coach, I had a little nerves,' but that's normal he hadn't played in almost a month. But I think the best moment is just the appreciation from the fans to get up and give him a standing ovation — that was pretty awesome."

Murray State led by 11 at the break and within 5 minutes of the second half the Racers had extended it to a 53-29 advantage.

The Racers had a game-high lead of 26 with 12:46 to go and the crowd began chanting "Undefeated!" with more than a minute to play.

"We tried to come out here and just put the game away," Canaan said. "We can't let them hang around so that was our mind frame, just come out and attack them and end it early. We were flying everywhere everybody was rotating and locking in on the defensive side and that's why the lead grew a little bit in the second half."

Murray State outrebounded Eastern Illinois 40-24.

It was a second straight sellout in the CFSB Center, a first for the Racers who have only seen four sellouts since it opened in 1998.

Both teams face Southeast Missouri State next. Eastern Illinois will take on the Redhawks on Monday, and Murray State plays them Thursday.