LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Pierce Hornung and Colorado State only managed to match Murray State's intensity early. Then, the Racers ran away.
Hornung scored 12 points and tied a career-high with 17 rebounds, but Colorado State's self-proclaimed ankle-biters started the second half by missing nine of their first 10 shots and fell to Murray State 58-41 on Thursday.
Colorado State (20-12) finished shooting 33 percent in its lowest offensive output of the season. By the time the 11th-seeded Rams team finally got going, they were trailing by double digits and on their way out of their first tournament since 2003.
"We shot poorly because of Murray's intensity," Rams coach Tim Miles said. "We just never matched that and could feel that from first couple of minutes."
Hornung's 17 rebounds were the most for the Rams in a tournament game since Dale Schlueter grabbed 19 in the first round in 1966, but Murray State (31-1) used an 18-2 run to start the second half to put the game out of reach.
"It didn't turn out like we wanted but still feel like we accomplished a lot," Hornung said. "We definitely have goals next year that exceed where this year ended."
Isaiah Canaan scored 15 points, and Donte Poole added 13 for the Racers.
Poole scored Murray State's first eight points when the Racers needed a lift, and his team responded in the second half when Poole was popped in the nose by Wes Eikmeier's inadvertent elbow.
"As long as we won, I'm fine," said Poole, who originally committed to the Rams but failed to academically qualify by half a credit.
The Racers rallied around him.
"In the timeout, I forgot who it was, but they said 'Let's do it for Donte,'" Racers guard Jewuan Long said. "We definitely wanted to help him out when he was down, and I think we did a good job with that."
The Racers ran off 23 straight wins as the nation's last unbeaten team, then had to weather the expectations of winning the Ohio Valley Conference crown and a long layoff until this game under first-year coach Steve Prohm.
Each time, they've responded, with their lone letdown coming over one poorly played half on Feb. 9 when they squandered a 13-point lead in their only loss to Tennessee State.
"I thought our toughness level was tremendous," said Prohm, who coached for the first time with his mentor and former boss, Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy, watching them in person from the stands.
Rams guard Jesse Carr, who proudly claims he's from Ainsworth, Neb. the town that's so anonymous there's a sign that lets you know you're in the "Middle of Nowhere," hit a 3-pointer that gave the Rams a 24-23 lead with 1:52 left in the first half.
Colorado State held that one-point advantage at the half before faltering.
Canaan missed his first 3-pointer to start the second half and clapped his hands in disgust. On the ensuing possession, Long stripped Dorian Green, and Canaan sprinted away for a one-handed dunk that energized the Racers and started the 18-2 spurt.
Ed Daniel followed with a basket, and the Racers made three of their next four free throws before play stopped when Eikmeier's elbow left a puddle of Poole's blood on the floor.
Poole, who had time to receive medical attention and quickly return, made a layup to cap the spurt with 11:23 left and put Murray State comfortably ahead 41-26. Colorado State never could mount a rally despite 10 points by Eikmeier and 11 points and eight rebounds for Carr.
"It's very frustrating," Carr said. "We came out and just didn't execute as planned. They got into us, we were picking up ball on offense. And defensively, their intensity, we just didn't match it. "