Donte Poole connected on his first 3-pointer of the game then made more than he has ever made in his career at Murray State.
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Poole connected on a career-high six 3s and had 20 points as Murray State remained undefeated with a 76-72 victory over No. 21 Memphis on Sunday night.
The Racers (10-0) took control early then had to weather a late Memphis rally to hold on for the victory. Each time Memphis made a run at the visitors, Murray State had an answer, several times it was a long-range shot by Poole.
”Anytime the first shot you take goes in, it’s always a big confidence booster,” Poole, a senior guard, said. ”When that one went in for me, I just got in a groove early, so it kind of just felt good.”
Murray State was up 71-60 with just under 2 minutes left before Memphis (5-3) scored eight straight points to make it a one-possession game.
The Tigers trailed 73-72 with 14 seconds left. But Isaiah Canaan, who had 15 points, connected on two free throws with 7.9 seconds left and the Racers remained one of only nine teams in Division I still undefeated.
Ed Daniel finished with 13 points and nine rebounds for Murray State and Ivan Aska had 12 points.
Will Barton led Memphis with 27 points on 10-of-13 shooting, while Joe Jackson had 20 and Tarik Black 11.
Chris Crawford’s 3-point attempt for Memphis with 6 seconds left could have tied the game, but it was off the mark.
”Our guys battled back late,” Memphis coach Josh Pastner said. ”We were playing out of desperation. We had some chances, so I’m proud of the guys for giving efforts in a lot of areas. In the end, we take a loss.”
With Poole leading the way, the Racers were able to shoot 45 percent from outside the arc, connecting on nine of 20 3-point attempts.
That went against Memphis’ game plan, as the Tigers had hoped to take away the 3-pointer.
Murray State led 34-29 at halftime.
The Racers dominated the first half, starting with an 11-2 streak to open the game. Murray State hit its first five shots, including two outside the arc.
”Our guys were tremendous,” Murray State coach Steve Prohm said, ”and our effort was great. We were able to start off the game in a positive way and let Memphis know we were going to be here and make it a long game.”
Memphis cut the lead to 14-12, and still was within 17-16 when the Racers made a second push with 12 straight points. Latreze Mushatt had a 3-pointer and two free throws in the run.
Both teams shot just over 41 percent in the half, while committing 10 turnovers apiece in a fast-paced tempo.
Aska’s 3-pointer with about 30 seconds remaining provided Murray State its halftime lead.
Memphis finally took the lead just after halftime with eight straight points, but the advantage was fleeting as Murray State weathered the rally, and answered again.
Poole connected on consecutive 3-pointers midway through the period to give the Racers a 12-point lead with 8:35 remaining.
”There were a couple of shots that I just had to take,” Poole said. ”I was feeling good, and coach was telling me to be aggressive and stuff. If they did close out short, any kind of space, I was just letting it go.”
Murray State never trailed again, although the Memphis rally made it interesting at the end.
”I just told the guys to just calm down and keep our composure,” Aska said of holding on at the end. ”Down the stretch, I made mistakes. Everybody made mistakes. We had a little bit of turnovers. We stood together and kept our composure.”
Remaining undefeated and beating a ranked team had several of the Racers saying they were ready to move into the Top 25.
”I believe so,” Poole said. ”Whether we are ranked or not, we’re still going to be Murray State. We’re still going to do the same things we’ve been doing on the defensive end and the offensive end. Being ranked it wouldn’t change one thing about how we play or anything.”
Prohm agreed that while it may be time for Murray State to move up, it’s not their goal, and they will try to stay focused on the season.
”These guys are resilient,” he said. ”They will handle it the right way. We talked about enjoying this (Sunday night). They’ll enjoy this (Sunday night), and they should.”