Murray, KY – The 16th-ranked Murray State Racers have a ranked 25 showdown, highlighting this year's BracketBusters event.
This will be just the third meeting between the prominent mid-major programs. Saint Mary's won both of the previous encounters. The last bout between these two occurred in 2006. The Gaels' 2-0 series lead will be tested as this is their first trip to the CFSB Center. This will be the first time in history a ranked Murray State team squares off with another ranked team.
Randy Bennett's Gaels might have been worrying about the Racers a little prematurely, as they were upset by the Loyola Marymount Lions on Wednesday. In the 75-60 loss, Saint Mary's had its second-worst shooting performance of the season as it made 38.6 percent of its field goals. The Gaels, who have not lost consecutive games this season, have now dropped two of their last three games. Saint Mary's will need to get back to its regularly smoothly run offense which averages 75.9 points and 16.3 assists per game. The Gaels are no red carpet on the defensive end either, as they are leading the WCC in scoring defense with an allowed average of 62.1 ppg.
Matthew Dellavedova has made a name for himself as an elite point guard this season as he has been pacing the Gaels with 15.5 points and 6.4 assists per game. Rob Jones has made Dellavedova's job quite easy, as he is adding 15.2 points and 10.8 rebounds per game. Jones has scored 25 points in each of his last two outings and averaged 13.5 boards per game during that span. Stephen Holt is adding 10.4 ppg while Jorden Page and Brad Waldow get into the mix regularly.
The Racers clinched the Ohio Valley Conference title for the third straight year on Wednesday with its 75-66 victory over Southeast Missouri State. First year head coach Steve Prohm had his team's sensational 23-0 start spoiled on Feb. 9th as it lost to Tennessee State at home. Murray State only played one ranked team so far this season, which has been the focal point of many critics. The Racers will boost their reputation with the NCAA Selection Committee if they can find a way to win tonight. Murray State, which averages 75.2 ppg, has the firepower to compete with the Gaels.
The most encouraging aspect of the Racers' win over SEMO on Wednesday was the team's group effort to pick up the slack as its star Isiah Canaan had his first off night in recent memory. Donte Poole snapped out of his nightmare of a slump to contribute 25 points while Ivan Aska and Ed Daniel combined to contribute 24 points and 17 boards. Canaan will have to return to his impressive form in this one, as he is the engine that drives the Racers.