No. 11 Murray State mindful of home loss to EIU
MURRAY, Ky. (AP)
Panthers guard Jeremy Granger dribbled the ball to the top of the key, drove to his left and pulled up from 12 feet for the game winner against the Racers.
Murray State is still smarting from that fade away.
But the undefeated Racers (20-0, 8-0 Ohio Valley Conference) haven't lost at home since - a span of 16 games - are the only unbeaten team in men's Division I basketball. And because of what the Panthers (9-10, 2-5) did last season, for one of the rate times Murray State is looking back to prepare for Saturday's matchup.
''It's our home court and they came here and they beat us,'' senior Ivan Aska said of the 61-60 loss. ''I'm not with it.''
Last year's game was a surprising setback for the Racers, who won their second straight regular-season OVC title but didn't make the NCAA tournament after being beaten in the semifinals of the conference tournament. Eastern Illinois finished 9-20 last season and has lost seven of its last eight conference road games since last year's win at Murray.
In the teams' Dec. 30 matchup this season in Charleston, Ill., Murray State dominated in a 73-40 victory, but the ability for a letdown has the Racers on alert after having a week between games.
But Murray State is getting back to full strength.
Aska will back for the first time in six games after he broke his hand in the first victory against the Panthers this season. Reserve guard Stacy Wilson is also back after missing one game because the death in the family.
''I'm very excited for them getting back on the court,'' said Jewuan Long, who was defending Granger when the Panthers guard hit the game winner.
Aska said he believes Long has a bitter taste from last year's game and is eager for another opportunity.
''He's motivated because Jewuan, he locks up players,'' Aska said. ''He's one of our best defensive players.''
Aska is motivated, too - Murray State was outrebounded in four of the six games he missed. The 6-foot-7 senior leads the Racers in rebounds with six per game while averaging 12.6 points. He also is a vocal leader and is the inside complement to the outside game of point guard Isaiah Canaan, who is averaging 18.7 points per contest.
''We both listen to each other and know each other's opinions,'' Aska said. ''We hold each other accountable. That's what makes us great.''
Murray State is off to the best start since St. Joseph's won its first 27 games in 2004. While the Racers quickly acknowledge the attention and call it positive, they're not breaking from their routines.
''I think that's a downfall of people who become successful ... they either forget what they've done to get to that point or they think that they've done enough so they relax,'' Racers guard Donte Poole said. ''I think once you relax that's when you lose or that's when things start going bad for you.
''The moment we start forgetting one thing or letting people come in and do this or start letting people influence our team, we'll lose.''