Nashville, TN (SportsNetwork.com) - The semifinal round of the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament begins on Friday with a battle featuring the fifth- seeded Morehead State Eagles taking on the No. 25 ranked and top-seeded Murray State Racers at Municipal Auditorium.
The winner of this contest advances to the league's title game Saturday, with a shot at an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament on the line.
Morehead State enters this contest with Murray State on a roll. The Eagles have won five consecutive games dating back to the regular season, and have already taken down two OVC opponents in back-to-back days. Morehead State is coming off a 76-65 victory over UT Martin Thursday.
Murray State owns the nation's second-longest winning streak at 24 games, dating back to a Nov. 29 loss against Valparaiso. The Racers defeated these very Skyhawks in the regular-season finale last Saturday, 73-67, to improve to a perfect 16-0 against Ohio Valley competition.
The two sides met just once during the regular season, when Morehead State hosted Murray State back on Jan. 3. The Racers disposed of the Eagles in that contest with a 66-57 road victory.
Morehead State took command of Thursday's match against the higher-seeded UT Martin early on, and led at halftime by a 36-28 margin. The Eagles opened things up in the second half with a 57.1 shooting percentage, and defensively held the Skyhawks to just 37 percent shooting in the game. Angelo Warner came off the bench to net 27 points with eight rebounds to pace the squad. Karam Mashour chipped in 25 points and seven boards, and Brent Arrington contributed 11 in the win. Kareem Storey dished out a team-best eight assists as the Eagles advance to the semifinals for the second consecutive season.
Warner went into the game against UT Martin as the team's leading scorer, netting 12.8 ppg for an Eagles squad averaging 70.8 ppg on 44 percent shooting. Arrington chipped in 11.3 ppg, and Mashour rounded out a trio of double-digit scorers at 10.1 ppg before Thursday's clash. Mashour topped the team on the boards with 5.8 rpg, and Storey had dished out 127 assists. Against Murray State earlier this season, the Eagles shot just 32.7 percent from the floor and made only 5-of-23 from 3-point range. Arrington led the charge offensively with 15 points in that one.
Murray State this season has been known for blowing opponents away offensively, and that's exactly what the team did against UT Martin in the last regular-season game last weekend. The Racers connected on 49.1 percent of their shots from the floor, and buried 8-of-22 from 3-point range to gain an advantage in the second half after the Skyhawks went into halftime leading 34-31. OVC Player of the Year Cameron Payne netted 31 points with eight rebounds and six assists to lead Murray State to victory. Jarvis Williams tallied a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds, and Jeffery Moss added 11 points and five boards in the team's win.
Payne led both Murray State and the Ohio Valley in scoring this season with 20.2 ppg en route to earning the league's Player of the Year distinction. Payne also finished first on the team and second in the league with 5.7 apg, and connected on 46.1 percent of his field-goal tries. Williams finished the campaign at 15.4 ppg, adding in a team-best 8.3 rpg to rank third in the conference. T.J. Sapp (11.4 ppg) and Moss (11.1 ppg) round out a group of double-digit scorers for the Racers, who led the league in scoring with 78.8 ppg.