Undefeated Racers open OVC play against visiting Skyhawks

One of the last undefeated Division I programs ranked Murray State Racers begin Ohio Valley Martin at the CFSB Center.

Entering this week the only other teams that remained undefeated along with Murray State were Missouri, Syracuse, Louisville, Indiana, Marquette and Baylor, with the Racers being the lowest-ranked program out of all of them. Last Saturday, the Racers went from crushing Lipscomb (89-65) two days earlier to putting up a mere 66-53 win over Arkansas State at home in order to remain perfect.

As for UT-Martin, it has just three wins on the campaign thus far and two of those have come against opponents (Rochester and Bethel) that don't even reside at the Division I level. The lone victory against such an opponent was a 59-54 final versus UAB on the road in late November. On Sunday, the team was taken down by IPFW in an 82-76 decision at home, dropping the Skyhawks to 2-4 in their own building.

As far as the all-time series is concerned, the Racers have lost just three times in 42 games dating back to the 1956-57 campaign versus Martin. MSU has taken five in a row, including a 92-75 triumph in the most recent matchup in January of last season.

Tennessee-Martin trailed by as many as 20 points against IPFW on Sunday at the Elam Center, but managed to make things interesting in the second half before falling by six points. Myles Taylor led the team in scoring for the third straight game, dropping in 19 points on 8-of-13 shooting from the floor in 21 minutes of action. Mike Liabo was a close second with 17 points, while Troy King and Dane Smith each added 11 points in the setback. Taylor, the only player to have started all 13 games for the Skyhawks, is second on the team in scoring to this point with his 11.5 ppg, thanks to an impressive 51.0 percent accuracy from the floor. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for leading scorer Liabo who has generated 14.3 ppg while hitting on only 36.4 percent from the field and 31.6 percent behind the three-point line. As a whole, this is a group that is shooting 41.6 percent from the floor and 29.4 percent beyond the arc, which is why they are scoring a mere 62.1 ppg and being outscored by more than 10 points per outing.

Less than 10 minutes into the first half last Saturday, the Racers realized that had a real game on their hands as they fell behind by nine points to Arkansas State in front of the hometown crowd. Thankfully, the defense showed up for MSU in the second half, holding the visitors to just nine total field goals and 2-of-9 shooting behind the three-point line. In the end it was Isaiah Canaan who scored a game-high 21 points, converting 6-of-10 beyond the arc while adding five steals, and Ivan Aska who registered a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Donte Poole chipped in with 11 points as well. Canaan, who dropped a season-high 36 points in the double-overtime win against Southern Miss at the Great Alaska Shootout last month, leads the team in scoring overall with 19.3 ppg, having knocked down a fantastic 48.1 percent of his three-point tries. Aska (13.0 ppg) and Poole (12.9 ppg) are also along for the ride on offense as the Racers outscore opponents by more than 14 ppg at this stage.