Tennessee St.-Murray St. Preview

While first-year coach Steve Prohm has a low-key approach, the

results have given Murray State a high national profile.

The ninth-ranked Racers put their perfect record on the line

once more Thursday night when they host Ohio Valley Conference

rival Tennessee State.

Prohm’s team has handled the national attention of being the

last unbeaten Division I team fairly well for nearly three weeks.

Murray State (23-0, 11-0) has had to work more to keep that

unblemished record and grinded out a 65-58 victory at last-place

Tennessee-Martin on Saturday.

Isaiah Canaan, Latreze Mushatt and Jewuan Long each scored 11

points for the Racers, who shot a season-worst 17.6 percent (3 for

17) from 3-point range – well off their season mark of 40.7

percent.

”They had jumped on us early, but we kept our composure,” said

forward Ivan Aska, who had eight points off the bench. ”We did

what we had to do and stuff like that. We didn’t get rattled too

much.”

One of the reasons the Racers don’t rattle easy has been Prohm’s

steady demeanor. A long-time assistant at Murray State before Billy

Kennedy left for Texas A&M, Prohm knows he doesn’t have to

micromanage a squad of mainly upperclassmen.

”They’ve got a lot of experience. They’ve got a lot of

togetherness, so I think they can lean on each other,” the coach

said. ”It’s about keeping everything in perspective, understanding

what’s at stake each night and then having tough-minded kids and we

have that.”

Canaan might embody that toughness the most. The junior guard is

averaging a team-high 18.9 points and shooting 46.3 percent from

3-point range. He has averaged 9.2 points in five games while

starting one versus the Tigers – all wins – and has made 7 of 12

from beyond the arc in those contests.

Aska is continuing to play his way back to full strength after

missing six games with a broken hand. The senior power forward has

averaged 8.7 points and 6.3 rebounds in three games off the bench

since returning.

While the notoriety of knocking off the last of the unbeatens

would be a boon for Tennessee State (15-10, 8-4), a victory would

also give the Tigers sole possession of second place in the Ohio

Valley.

They enter this contest on a five-game winning streak, with

three of those victories coming on the road. Tennessee State used a

15-0 run to rally from a seven-point second-half deficit for a

75-72 win at Southeast Missouri State on Saturday, getting 23

points and 13 rebounds from Robert Covington despite him sitting

out the final 8:18 of the first half with foul trouble.

Covington is Tennessee State’s go-to player, averaging team

highs of 17.8 points and 8.0 rebounds while shooting 43.1 percent

from 3-point range and 51.8 percent overall. The 6-foot-8 small

forward has an OVC-leading seven double-doubles this season and has

averaged 11.8 points in five lifetime games versus the Racers.

The Tigers, who lost 102-69 at then-No. 1 North Carolina on Nov.

22, have dropped 15 straight to ranked opponents by an average of

25.6 points since the start of the 1996-97 season.

Murray State has won eight in a row between the teams since an

83-75 defeat in the 2008 OVC tournament and leads the all-time

series 46-15.