Murray State coach Steve Prohm wishes he could take back one thing he said following the ninth-ranked Racers’ first loss of the season.
“We’re having an amazing run is what I would’ve loved to have said instead of ‘we had,’” Prohm told The Associated Press on Friday. “We’re 23-1. We’re in first place in our conference. We’re ranked in the top 10 in the country in two different polls.
“We’re in the top 50 in RPI. We’re having an amazing run, and we’ve got a lot more basketball to play.”
Prohm said his challenge following Thursday night’s 72-68 loss to Tennessee State is to lift up his disappointed team quickly. The Racers play Austin Peay (9-17, 6-6 Ohio Valley Conference) on Saturday night.
“The games come quick, so you’ve got to learn from it, get better and be ready to play because you don’t want to bring one loss to make two,” Prohm said. “You want to get back on the winning track as soon as possible.”
Murray State guard Jewuan Long said he felt Racers “let a lot of people down in life” after losing for the first time this season.
“We enjoyed being undefeated, we enjoyed going into every game trying to get an extra win. We enjoyed the run,’” Long said. “If anything, it’s just going to make us more hungry, more focused, and we’ll be ready to go by Saturday and every other game.
“We don’t want to have this feeling again, so we want to do whatever it takes to not have this feeling.”
Murray State can’t afford to have that feeling again, at least not too many times.
The Racers need one more conference victory to clinch at least a tie for first place. The OVC’s top two teams get automatic byes into the conference tournament semifinals.
While Murray state has three wins over opponents in the RPI’s top 100, the school’s own RPI continues to fall due to a lack of quality opponents coming up.
The Ohio Valley Conference hasn’t sent two teams to the tournament since 1987 even though the conference representative has won its first game in each of the last three seasons, including Murray State’s victory over Vanderbilt in 2010.
Racers forward Ivan Aska isn’t too concerned.
“In a way, (I’m) glad we lost ahead of time than way in the tournament or somewhere,” he said.
After playing the Governors, Murray State (23-1, 11-1) travels to Southeast Missouri State on Wednesday before hosting No. 16 St. Mary’s on Saturday in the marquee BracketBuster game on national television.
They’ll continue to rely on point guard Isaiah Canaan, who scored 31 points against Tennessee State. The Racers built a 13-point second-half lead against the Tigers before it crumbled with poor play down the stretch and several mistakes in the final minute.
Prohm said he’s disappointed they couldn’t close out the Tigers with a big lead, but that he expects his team to be ready to go beginning with a late afternoon practice Friday before facing the Governors Saturday night.
“It’s an important game, because the undefeated streak is great, but our first goal is to win a conference championship. It was never to go undefeated,” Prohm said. “You just hate the fairy tale to end because of what it was doing to this community, the exposure for this university with just so many flocking to the great little town of Murray.
“It was awesome.”
Austin Peay has been far from awesome, losing three straight to fall to .500 in conference play. The Governors’ most recent loss was their most lopsided of the season, 94-55 at Belmont on Monday.
Josh Terry had 13 points and is now tied for the team lead in scoring (12.3 ppg) with TyShwan Edmondson, who went scoreless Monday.
Austin Peay has gone 8 for 41 (19.5 percent) from 3-point range during this losing streak while allowing an average of 88.3 points.