Saint Mary’s (Cal)-Murray St. Preview

Murray State already has its conference title after winning the

Ohio Valley Conference’s regular-season crown. Now, the 16th-ranked

Racers have their made-for-TV match.

Murray State hosts No. 21 St. Mary’s in a nationally-televised

BracketBusters game on Saturday and even the Racers are wondering

just how they’ll measure up against the West Coast Conference


“It’s kind of like everyone wants to see what we’re going to do

how we’re going to react. So, I mean, it’s just a good test for

us,” Racers guard Donte Poole said. “It’s going to be a very

intense game.”

The school issued a warning to students about scalping their

free tickets before the Racers’ final home appearance this season,

the latest example of big-time basketball that’s invaded

southwestern Kentucky after the Racers (25-1) won their first 23


The last unbeaten team in the nation finally fell to Tennessee

State on Feb. 9, a loss that lingered even though the Racers have

gone on to win a conference title in each of the last three years

include this season with wins over Austin Peay and Southeast

Missouri State.

“The Tennessee State game is still kind of surreal a little

bit,” Racers coach Steve Prohm said. “I’ve moved past it a little

bit more.”

Murray State will host its sixth straight sellout and is

expected to exceed the all-time attendance record of 8,691 set

earlier this season, and tickets have popped up on secondary

markets – including over $600 for a pair of nonstudent tickets

listed on eBay on Friday afternoon.

“We hope our students would use their tickets to attend this

weekend’s game,” associate athletic director Paul Bubb said. “But

we realize there are those who may try to sell their tickets.”

The school has measures in place to stop resale of student

tickets, meaning nonstudents who attempt to use them will be turned


Saint Mary’s (23-4) has lost two of its last three in league

play and is dealing with injuries to guards Stephen Holt and

leading scorer Matthew Dellavedova. Holt did not make the

2,300-mile trip because of a right knee injury sustained in a 75-60

loss to Loyola Marymount on Wednesday.

“Our defense wasn’t very good and we need to improve that and

just pay attention to the little things,” Dellavedova said. “If we

do that, I think we’ll be OK.”

Dellavedova, who is averaging 15.5 points a game, rolled an

ankle in that game, but is expected to play in what is an important

matchup for NCAA tournament seeding purposes and maybe an at-large

bid if either team sustains a serious late-season slide.

“We’re not doing a good job defensively, and it’s been coming

on. It’s like I told them, `You get what you tolerate,'” said Gaels

coach Randy Bennett, who is wearing a cast on his left hand after

breaking his thumb last month. “We knew these last two, three weeks

were going to be tough any. We go play Murray State. They’ve lost

one game, so it’s going to be a tough game.”

And following two tough days of travel. St. Mary’s flew from

California to Kansas City then to Nashville on Thursday before

practicing at Vanderbilt on Friday morning. They then took the

two-hour bus ride to Murray, Ky. on Friday afternoon.

Both teams are led by their guards with Dellavedova starring for

the Gaels and Isaiah Canaan running the point for the Racers.

Canaan, averaging 19.2 points per game, had his second lowest

output of the season when he scored nine in a 75-66 victory over

Southeast Missouri on Wednesday.

Poole picked him up with 25 points and said the Racers have a

deeper team than just Canaan and plan to do more than just rest on

another OVC conference crown beginning with Saturday’s matchup.

“Not every game is going to be Isaiah’s day. Not every game is

he going to score 30 or 20 points. So that’s just when other guys

have to step up,” Poole said. “There’s just so much more we want to

accomplish. It’s not only about a regular season championship, we

want to go and win a conference tournament championship and go and

make some noise in the NCAA tournament.”