LOUISVILLE – The Murray State Racers played tentative for a half, but then utilized their superior quickness and speed to roll by the Colorado State Rams, 58-41, Thursday afternoon in the second round of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament at the KFC Yum! Center.
Murray State moves on to play Marquette Saturday in the third round. Marquette eased past Brigham Young in the second game of the day on Thursday.
In the opener, Murray shot just 39.2 percent from the field on 20 of 51, hit just 13 of 26 at the free throw line, and was out-rebounded by Colorado State 40-32, but the Racers still managed to pull away to win by turning over the Rams 22 times. The Racers turned the ball over just eight times.
CSU led 24-23 at halftime, but was never in the game once the second half started. A suffocating Murray State defense limited the Rams of the Mountain West Conference to just two points through the first 10 minutes of the second half.
“What I talked about at halftime was that we were not playing the way defensively that we had all season long,” said Murray State coach Steve Prohm after his team improved to 31-1. “We had just one steal and only nine deflections. That’s just not Murray State basketball. That’s not what our program has been built on, and how we’ve been successful all season long.
“I thought the difference in the game was we really tried to speed them up in the second half, and I thought we did a great job of that,” Prohm added. “I thought our toughness level the second half was tremendous, to hold them to 17 points.”
Junior guard Isaiah Canaan led the 10th-ranked and No. 6-seeded Racers with 15 points and seven rebounds. Senior guard Donte Poole added 13 points. Senior forward Ivan Aska led Murray on the boards with eight rebounds, and junior forward Ed Daniel added six rebounds and four steals.
All of the Racers were on top of their game on the defensive end, especially in the second half.
“We just wanted to come out and be more aggressive on both ends,” Canaan said of the second half. “We wanted to turn our defense into offense. That’s what we did the second half. We locked in and got more focused on the defensive side.”
Junior forward Pierce Hornung led 20-12 Colorado State, a No. 11 seed, with 12 points and 17 rebounds, but he was the only player who got much done on this afternoon for the Rams.
“You know, they just got into our action,” Hornung said of the Racers. “I never felt like we could get it into an operating area. It just got us off the attack, and we played tentative the whole second half.”