Murray State is one of four remaining unbeaten Division I schools, but coach Steve Prohm won’t stop pushing his team to keep improving.
After surviving a scare in their last contest, the No. 19 Racers hope for a more complete effort as they try to match the best start in school history Saturday night at Austin Peay in an Ohio Valley Conference game.
Despite almost blowing a 15-point lead, Murray State (15-0, 3-0) beat Eastern Kentucky 76-67 at home Wednesday to move within one of the school-record 16 straight victories to open a season set by the 1935-36 team. The Racers remained with top-ranked Syracuse, fourth-ranked Baylor and No. 7 Missouri as the last of the undefeated.
Donte Poole scored 22 points and Isaiah Canaan surpassed 1,000 for his career with 16, but the Racers allowed the Colonels to cut a 15-point deficit to one with just under 5 minutes before extending that lead for good.
Murray State’s second-half effort caused concern for Prohm, who knows his squad must play better this weekend even though Austin Peay (3-12, 0-2) has dropped three in a row overall and is near the bottom of the OVC standings.
The Racers are 6-0 on the road and won their last two trips to Austin Peay’s campus in Clarksville, Tenn., but the Governors should be well rested since losing 68-64 at Morehead State on New Year’s Eve. Austin Peay won 66-64 at Murray State last season for its only win in the teams’ last four meetings.
“We need to tighten things up,” Prohm told Murray State’s official website. “Peay is going to be ready, be prepared. They’ve had a week off. We need to be ready.”
Prohm watched his team get outrebounded 35-26 by the Eastern Kentucky in its first game without forward Ivan Aska, out indefinitely with a broken right hand. The 6-foot-7 senior averages 12.6 points and a team-leading 6.0 rebounds.
“It was tough on the offensive end, defensive end, rebounding wise (without Aska),” Poole said.
The Racers made up for their deficiency on the glass by going 8 of 17 from 3-point range. Murray State’s 43.9 percent shooting from beyond the arc ranks among the nation’s best. Poole and Canaan were a combined 5 of 10 from 3-point range against the Colonels.
That does not bode well for Austin Peay, which ranks near the bottom of the OVC in allowing opponents to shoot 36.5 percent from beyond the arc.
Canaan averages a team-leading 17.6 points and 4.0 assists, but continues to draw praise from his coach for his overall contribution to the team.
“Isaiah’s done a tremendous job,” Prohm said. “Isaiah’s really stepped in the leadership role. I told him - ‘You’ve got to be great every night.’”
The junior scored 21 points in a 67-58 win at Austin Peay on Feb. 5.
Josh Terry, who had a team-high 17 points for the Governors in that contest, scored a season-high 24 at Morehead State last weekend.
Senior TyShwan Edmondson averages a team-leading 14.0 points but had seven versus Morehead State. He totaled just 13 points on 4-of-22 shooting and missed all nine 3-point attempts in two games against the Racers last season.