Three Key Takeaways.
- Racers Win With Defense. From about the 10 minute mark of the first half, head coach Steve Prohm urged his players to crank up their intensity on defense. They obeyed. It changed the game. It’s often said that defense leads to offense, and even though (likely 1st-team All-American) Isaiah Canaan didn’t get his first bucket until almost 10 minutes into the first half, as the Racer defense clamped down, buckets became easier to come by. This continued into the second half, as the Rams were forced into turnover after turnover and Murray State capitalized.
- The Best Laid Plans… Things really got bad for CSU when they made an increased effort to drive-and-dish in the second half. It worked the first time they tried it. It failed the next four, and the Racers scored off each turnover. It was in the Rams’ head at that point. Even open shots weren’t falling for them and the anxiety was obvious…which led to more missed shots, and more miscues.
- Land of Canaan, Hornung of Plenty. Isaiah Canaan was the man with the most eyes on him to start this one, but the buzz in the place was largely about CSU junior Pierce Hornung as his rebound totals just kept climbing throughout the game. Looking forward to seeing more of him next year.
Star of the Game. I have to equivocate, here. Isaiah Canaan was excellent as expected (15/8), but we can’t just forget Pierce Hornung for Colorado State with a workmanlike 12/17 on 6-7 shooting. He got the biggest ovation of the night after fouling out.
Sights & Sounds. Murray State’s home gym, the CFSB Center, holds 8,600 people. The KFC Yum! Center holds 22,000. Colorado State filled a section, but between Murray State backers and Kentucky fans who had already taken their seats ahead of their game in the evening session, this was BETTER than a home game for Murray State.
What’s Next? Murray State will get the winner of Marquette/BYU, but if you’re already talking up Murray State as the next Butler/George Mason/VCU, slow down. They were terrible from three-point range (5-17), only hit 50% of their free throws (13-26), were outrebounded (38-32), and only shot 39.2% (20-51). They only committed eight fouls the WHOLE GAME even though the defensive effort was commendable, and they only turned the ball over eight times, but they’ll have to clean things up considerably by Saturday if they want to move forward.