West Virginia Ends Murray State Racers' NCAA Hopes After Historic Season
Murray State's men's basketball NCAA run ended in the first round of the tournament on Friday in San Diego. No. 5 seed West Virginia overwhelmed 12th-seeded Murray State 85-68 in the first round of the East Region.
Terrell Miller led Murray State (26-6) with 27 points. Miller made 8 of 11 shots, but his team hit just 41 percent. Murray State had won 13 straight games entering the NCAAs, the second-longest active win streak in the country.
This was Murray State's 16th appearance in the NCAA tournament. They got an automatic bid after winning the Ohio Valley Conference.
West Virginia's Jevon Carter scored 21 points, had eight assists and six steals, Teddy Allen added 16 points. The Mountaineers (25-10) pulled away in the second half and advanced to the round of 32 for the third time in the past four seasons as four players finished in double figures.
Next up for West Virginia: A Mountain State showdown with 13th-seeded Marshall far away from home.
Carter had 13 points in the second half and was the trigger of a second-half surge by the Mountaineers after Murray State had trimmed a 14-point lead down to five.
More important than what Carter did offensively was the job he and his teammates did on the defensive end shutting down Murray State star Jonathan Stark. It was Stark who carried the offensive load all season for the Racers.
Stark had scored in double figures in 30 of 31 games entering the NCAAs, including three games of 30 or more points late in the season.
But Stark never found his shot from the outside and anytime he beat his defender there were Mountaineers waiting. Stark, who was averaging 21.8 points per game, was 1 of 12 shooting and finished with nine points.
Murray State lingered long enough to at least make the Mountaineers work. Down by 14 early in the second half the Racers rallied, pulling within 49-44 on Shaq Buchanan's basket. It capped a surge the Racers needed to avoid getting blown out. But the surge by Murray State was fleeting.
The Mountaineers scored nine of the next 10 points. Carter was the catalyst with a three-point play, and a steal where he found Logan Routt for a breakaway dunk and a 58-45 lead.
Murray State never got closer than 11 the rest of the way.
Murray State: The Racers will lament a first half where they were trailing from nearly the outset. The Racers had 11 turnovers in the first half as they struggled handling West Virginia's pressure defense. Those wasted possessions allowed the Mountaineers to build a comfortable lead.
West Virginia: The Mountaineers were smart in not settling for jump shots against the undersized Racers. West Virginia outscored Murray State 48-24 in the paint and the Mountaineers shot 58 percent in the second half.
Murray State: The Racers should again be in the mix in the Ohio Valley Conference. Murray State will return its entire roster with the exception of Stark and Miller. It's a lot of points to replace, but 11 players back is a good place to start.
West Virginia: The Mountaineers will face in-state rival Marshall for the first time since the 2015-16 season.