Murray State Racers trailed with eight minutes remaining, but ran off a 22-4 run to finish out an 86-75 victory over the Eastern Illinois Panthers Thursday at the CFSB Center in Murray, Kentucky.
The Racers (18-4) kept a share of first place in the Ohio Valley Conference with Austin Peay and Belmont as each team is 9-2. Murray State is back at home Saturday to host the SIUE Cougars. EIU (13-11) fell to 6-5 in OVC games.
Darnell Cowart had two personal fouls in the first two minutes of the game, but still managed to be a force for the Racers in the paint. He scored a career-high 23 points on 8-of-13 from the field and 7-of-7 from the free throw line. He also grabbed 12 rebounds, seven of which came on the offensive glass.
Ja Morant thrilled the 5,111 that watched at The Bank with an amazing windmill dunk in the final minute as he recorded his 14th double-double in 22 games this season with 23 points and 11 assists. Shaq Buchanan added 18 points to the Racer attack.
A team might imagine better starts to a game, but the Racers’ 5-of-6 start from the 3-point line, including four in a row from Morant, had the home fans on their feet with a quick 15-7 lead only five minutes in. EIU got even hotter from long range as they hit 7-of-14 in the first half and had a largest lead of 40-30 with 3:10 left when the Racers went on a run, most of from Morant hitting five free throws and also a 3-point basket from Buchanan to tie it 40-40 at the halftime intermission.
The Racers led until the 10:24 mark in the second half and EIU went on to build a gap of 71-64 with 9:04 left. The Racers got some defensive stops and took the lead for good on Brown’s 3-point basket with 6:50 left.
Game NotesWith Cowart and Brown each grabbing 10-plus rebounds, the Racers had a game of two double-figure rebounders for the first time since the OVC Tournament in 2017 when Terrell Miller and Gee McGhee each had 12 in a double overtime win. The last time it happened in a regulation time game was Jonathan Fairell and T.J. Sapp each getting 10 rebounds at home against SIUE in 2015.
The Racers are 24-6 at home in OVC play in the Coach McMahon era.
Shaq Buchanan scored the rare four-point play when he hit a three and was fouled with 7:14 remaining. When he completed the play with the free throw, Buchanan became the first to do it since 2018 when Jonathan Stark did the trick against Tennessee Tech. The Racers have now recorded a four-point play in the last six seasons.
Brown’s 11 rebounds is his career high game, one better than the 10 he had at Auburn (Dec. 22).
Cowart’s 23 points is his career high game as be bested the 20 points he scored against Morehead State (Jan. 3).
What started as a four-way tie for first place in the OVC, ended with only three at 9-2. UT Martin upset Jacksonville State 66-64 to push the Gamecocks down to 8-3. Belmont moved to 9-2 with a win at EKU 83-65 and Austin Peay is 9-2 after beating SIUE 80-45.
With 18 wins, the Racers are again knocking on the door of a 20-win season. When they get there, it will mark the 30th in the 94 seasons in program history and the ninth in the last 15 seasons.
Associate AD – Media Relations
Murray State University