Murray, KY (SportsNetwork.com) - One team will finish the 2013-14 campaign on a winning note, as the Yale Bulldogs tangle with the Murray State Racers in the title game of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament at the CFSB Center in Kentucky on Thursday night.
Yale has not had an easy time of it coming out of the Ivy League to take part in the postseason, at times playing just well enough to advance. The tourney run for the Bulldogs began more than two weeks ago with a 69-68 victory against local foe Quinnipiac in the first round. The squad continued with a 71-66 triumph over Holy Cross, another Northeast school, followed by a narrow 72-69 decision against Columbia last week in the quarterfinals.
Two nights ago, against the top-scoring team in the country, the Bulldogs registered their most comfortable win with a 75-62 final versus VMI on the road.
Yale played in this event back in 2012 and appeared in just a single game, bowing out following a first-round loss to local foe Fairfield, 68-56.
Murray State, a program that has been one of the stronger representatives from the Ohio Valley Conference in recent years, made the cut for this event for the first time in school history and has not looked back. A 66-63 win over Missouri State in the first round was followed by an 86-62 blowout of Nebraska Omaha, and three days later another double-digit upset of Towson (85-73).
The Racers, who closed the regular season with a 118-115 loss to Southeast Missouri State, approached triple digits again on Tuesday night with a 98-75 romp over Pacific at the CFSB Center.
This is just the second all-time meeting between these two programs. The first took place as part of the Poinsettia Classic in South Carolina back in 1978, with the Bulldogs grabbing a 71-63 victory.
Against a VMI group that was accustomed to posting in the range of 90 ppg, the Yale defense sent the Keydets into a tailspin by holding the hosts to a mere 62 points on 5-of-18 shooting behind the 3-point line. It also helped that the Bulldogs produced a 45-27 rebounding advantage against the trigger-happy Keydets.
Javier Duren stuffed his stat line with 19 points, seven rebounds and six assists, followed by Justin Sears with 15 points, Brandon Sherrod 13 off the bench and Armani Cotton 11 points for the visitors, as they survived having twice as many turnovers (14) as VMI.
Just a sophomore, Sears is the guiding force on offense for the Bulldogs this season with his 16.9 ppg, hitting on 51.7 percent of his field goal attempts which is considerably better than the squad's overall mark of 42.6 percent. Duren is the only other player averaging in double figures through 32 outings, putting up 13.5 ppg, but in his case he has knocked down only 37.7 percent from the floor.
Despite some early foul trouble to key figures, the Racers had little trouble separating themselves from Pacific on Tuesday night, thanks in large part to the effort of Cameron Payne who made several spectacular plays during the 23- point victory in front of the hometown crowd. Payne accounted for 21 points, seven rebounds, four assists and three steals in 32 minutes of action, followed by Jarvis Williams with 18 points and eight boards as he converted all five of his field goal tries.
Coming off the bench, T.J. Sapp was a major contributor with 18 points of his own, connecting on 6-of-8 from the floor and 3-of-4 behind the 3-point line in 24 minutes of action. Jeffery Moss tacked on another 15 points for a team that shot not only 55.2 percent from the field, but also 13-of-25 (.520) out on the perimeter.
One of the brightest stars in the OVC this season, Payne is responsible for not just a team-high 16.6 ppg, but has also been the key figure in directing the Murray State offense with his 179 assists, which is more than twice as many dishes as his closest teammate. Williams has pitched in with 14.8 ppg and while his assists (22) are almost nonexistent, he has been a huge influence in the paint with a team-best 10.1 rpg. Add in Sapp (13.5 ppg) and Moss (13.3 ppg) and it's easy to see how this team generates better than 78 ppg.