Racers lone unbeaten, improve to 20-0
Murray State guard Jewuan Long did a little scoreboard watching on Saturday night.
Long and his teammates were well aware that top-ranked and previously unbeaten Syracuse lost to Notre Dame just minutes before the undefeated Racers were set to take the court at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville.
''We saw what happened to them and we focused hard,'' Long said. ''We want to make sure that something like that didn't happen to us.''
Long made sure it didn't with a season-high 17 points that helped leave No. 12 Murray State as the only unbeaten team in Division I after an 82-65 victory.
Isaiah Canaan led the Racers with 21 points, Donte Poole added 14 and Ed Daniel chipped in with 10. Latreze Mushatt had a team-high eight rebounds for Murray State (20-0, 8-0 Ohio Valley Conference).
Murray State also picked up its NCAA-leading ninth road win of the season.
Mark Yelovich led the Cougars (5-12, 3-5) with 17 points. Kris Davis added 15 points and Derian Shaffer had 12. Edwardsville was facing its third ranked opponent since moving to Division I in 2008-09.
The Racers used a 16-0 run in the first half to erase a two-point deficit and take control 26-12. Poole hit back-to-back 3-pointers in 24 seconds to complete the run. Canaan also added a trey and Mushatt chipped in with a key basket.
Murray State, which led 49-35 at the half, pushed the lead to 22 in the second half and now sits alone atop the college hoops landscape.
''It's a great feeling knowing you've hit a plateau that you've worked so hard for,'' Poole said. ''We're there all alone.''
Murray State coach Steve Prohm, in his first season at the helm, is not ready to celebrate just yet.
''This means a lot to our community and our school and I think we realize that,'' Prohm said. ''We've got a great group of kids and they are tremendously humble. I'm proud of each and every one of them. But we know there's a lot more work to be done.''
The Racers connected on eight of their first 11 shots to go up by 14. They pushed the lead to 51-35 in the first 16 seconds of the second half on a pair of free throws by Daniel. The lead hovered between 13 and 22 points the rest of the way.
''It's fun being the only team that hasn't lost,'' Canaan said. ''I'm sure we're going to keep getting a lot of attention. We'll just keep pushing on.''
Murray State, which has led at halftime in 17 of its 20 games, forced 21 turnovers and scored 32 points off those miscues.
''When we're scoring off our defense we can put up points in a hurry,'' Prohm said. ''That's how we want to play.''
Edwardsville stayed within striking distance most of the night and got within 42-32 on a pair of baskets by Yelovich and a layup from Shaffer with 3:20 left. But Murray State finished the half by scoring seven of the final 10 points, including a 3-pointer by Canaan.
''They're deserve all the credit they've gotten so far,'' Yelovich said of the Racers.
SIU-E coach Lennox Forrester was equally impressed.
''They carry a swagger about them,'' he said. ''They're at least a Sweet Sixteen team and maybe Elite Eight. They could be a so-called Butler.''
Murray State has nine regular-season games left, including two against Southeast Missouri State, which is in second in the OVC.
The Racers have won 20 games in a season for the third year in a row and 25th time in their 87-year history.