NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Isaiah Canaan scored 16 of his 24 points in the first half, and No. 14 Murray State routed Tennessee State 80-62 on Thursday night, avenging the Racers' lone loss this season.
The Racers (27-1, 14-1 Ohio Valley Conference) blew a 13-point lead in losing 72-68 on Feb. 9. They used a 14-0 run over the final 2:31 of the first half Thursday with four Racers each hitting a 3-pointer to blow open a tight game.
Murray State shot 62.5 percent from the field in the first half and finished by matching its season-high with 12 3-pointers. Donte Poole added 16 points and Zay Jackson had 11.
Tennessee State (19-11, 11-5) had a nine-game winning streak snapped and missed its chance to sweep Murray State for the first time since 1993, when the Tigers reached the NCAA tournament.
Robert Covington led the Tigers with 24 points and 15 rebounds and Kellen Thornton had 17 points.
Murray State, which had already clinched its 23rd regular season OVC title, has gotten used to lots of attention during an unprecedented season even by Racers' standards.
The Tigers will be the OVC's No. 2 seed in the league tournament next week. But they had problems dealing with the nationally televised game with a standing-room only crowd of 10,125. The last time the Tigers had an event this big on campus that didn't involve graduation was back in 1980 when Stevie Wonder played the Gentry Center.
They outrebounded Murray State 36-24 and had a 36-20 edge in the paint.
But they couldn't match Murray State's shooting beyond the arc or inside. The Racers shot 56.5 percent (26 of 46) compared to 46.4 percent (23 of 57) for Tennessee State.
Whether nerves or too much adrenaline, Tennessee State struggled shooting air balls and committing turnovers. Jordan Cyphers had one of their worst turnovers of the game, overthrowing a teammate so badly the ball went well over the sideline media table. They also missed all seven 3-point attempts in the first half and didn't hit from beyond the arc until Covington's 3 with 17:45 left in the second half.
The Tigers stayed close early with two ties and six lead changes. Murray State took the lead for good at 18-17 midway through the first half on Mushatt's layup. Tennessee State got within three points twice, the last on Covington's rebound of Chris Conner's missed 3 for a layup that made it 31-28 with 2:46 left.
That's when the Racers started scoring. Mushatt hit a 3 from the corner, Canaan added a 3. Jackson scored on a layup, then pulled up for a 3 on the next trip down the court. Covington, the Tigers' leading scorer, shot an airball. The Racers got the rebound, and Poole hit the eighth 3 of the half just before the buzzer prompting Mushatt to stand for a couple of seconds looking up at the fans.
Murray State opened the lead with a 12-2 run that ended with Mushatt's 3 that made it 58-38 with 13:21 left.
Even when the Racers had four players with at least three fouls each, Tennessee couldn't get closer than 12 points on a 3 by Kenny Moore with 3:54 remaining. Poole answered with another 3, and Canaan hit Murray State's 12th 3 with 2:42 to go, matching the Racers' season-high set Dec. 30 at Eastern Illinois. After Ed Daniels got a loose ball and went in alone for a dunk with 1:23 left for a 78-60 lead, fans started heading toward the exits.