Lipscomb (6-5) at Murray St. (10-0)

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By JEFF BARTL, STATS Writer Wednesday, Dec 14, 2011 Tipoff: 8:00 pm EST Thu Dec 15, 2011

Murray State has raced to its best start in more than six decades, though it doesn’t plan to lose the focus that helped it earn a spot in the Top 25.

The No. 24 Racers will play their first game as a ranked team in more than 13 years when they host fellow mid-major squad Lipscomb on Thursday night.

A member of the Ohio Valley Conference, Murray State (10-0) is two victories shy of equaling the best start in school history, set in 1936 and matched in 1950. It is coming off a 76-72 upset of then-No. 21 Memphis on Sunday, as Donte Poole scored 20 points and hit a career-high six 3-pointers on eight attempts.

“Anytime the first shot you take goes in, it’s always a big confidence booster,” Poole said. “When that one went in for me, I just got in a groove early, so it kind of just felt good.”

Poole is second on the team with 13.7 points per game, behind Isaiah Canaan with 19.8.

“Whether we are ranked or not, we’re still going to be Murray State,” Poole said. “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.”

The Racers are in the poll for the first time since ending the 1997-98 regular season at No. 25, but coach Steve Prohm has attempted to keep his team grounded amid its early success.

“Our start has been a blessing,” said Prohm, whose squad is one of nine undefeated teams in Division I. “Our guys are very locked in. Our job as a staff is to keep our guys humble and focused on the task at hand. That’s all our focus needs to be, on Thursday’s game against Lipscomb.”

The Bisons (6-5) are coming off an 89-87 overtime loss to Tennessee Tech, losing despite leading by eight at halftime.

Robert Boyd scored a team-high 23 points while Deonte Alexander - named the Atlantic Sun Conference newcomer of the week - added a career-high 21 off the bench. The Bisons, though, committed 19 turnovers and forced only 11.

“I felt that one stretch in the second half we gave them some baskets in transition with no defense,” coach Scott Sanderson said. “When we went zone, they stepped up and made some big shots.”

Lipscomb is 256th in the nation in field-goal percentage defense at 44.5, while Murray State is shooting 46.3 percent.

The Racers have won 10 straight and 35 of 37 at home, including 14 consecutive victories over non-conference opponents.

Lipscomb is 0-3 on the road this season and has lost five straight there overall. The Bisons have dropped their last eight games against ranked opponents, all of them coming on the road.

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