Murray St.-UT-Martin Preview

Largely because of Isaiah Canaan, Murray State remains Division I’s lone undefeated team after he helped the Racers overcome a scare this week.

He could play a much smaller role against the Ohio Valley Conference’s worst team, especially if the first meeting with Tennessee-Martin was any indication.

Canaan and the 10th-ranked Racers look to keep the Skyhawks winless in conference play Saturday night.

Murray State (22-0, 10-0) trailed by 11 early in the second half Thursday before extending its unbeaten start with an 81-73 win over Southeast Missouri State.

The Racers rallied past the Ohio Valley’s second-place team and set a conference record for best start to a season.

Canaan scored 24 of his 32 points after halftime, including 15 during the decisive 24-2 run that gave the Racers an 11-point lead.

“Isaiah Canaan is a special player,” Southeast Missouri coach Dickey Nutt said. “Special players step up in special games and that’s what he did. He hit big shots when the game was on the line, especially contested and also from very deep range, so I have to give him credit for that.”

Canaan went 6 of 11 from 3-point range and has shot 47.2 percent from beyond the arc over the last seven games while averaging 22.9 points.

“When it comes to games like these, and you see all the great numbers, I try to give (my teammates) the credit because they prepare me for situations like this,” Canaan said.

He was much less of a factor in a 78-54 win over Tennessee-Martin on Dec. 21 in the conference opener, scoring 10 points on 1-of-4 shooting, although he did have seven assists and six rebounds. Donte Poole led the Racers with 15 points on 5-of-6 shooting - he’s averaging 14.5 - and now looks to bounce back after going 1 of 8 from the field Thursday.

Only eight teams have fewer wins than the Skyhawks (3-21, 0-11), who trailed by as many as 37 points in the first meeting while letting Murray State shoot 68.4 percent.

“I don’t know you ever expect to get beat (by) 24,” Tennessee-Martin coach Jason James said. “We knew they were good and would have to play perfect to win.”

Things haven’t gotten much better for the Skyhawks. They’ve lost 12 straight and only one of their wins this season came against a Division I opponent.

Tennessee-Martin fell 85-74 to Jacksonville State on Thursday despite shooting a season-high 61.9 percent.

Myles Taylor scored 16 points while Mike Liabo added 15. They’re the only Skyhawks players averaging more than eight points, with Liabo at 15.2 per game and Taylor 12.7. They combined for 37 points in the loss to the Racers.

Tennessee-Martin continues to struggle defensively, giving up an average of 78.3 points over the last 13 games with opponents shooting 53.3 percent from the field and 40.9 percent on 3-point attempts.

The Skyhawks have lost six straight and 21 of 22 in this series. They’ve played five ranked teams over the past two seasons and lost all of those games by at least 22 points.

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Updated Friday, Feb 3, 2012