Tennessee Tech-Murray St. Preview

The Associated Press

One of just three remaining undefeated teams in the country and off to the best start in school history, Murray State faces perhaps its biggest challenge of the Ohio Valley Conference season when it hosts Tennessee Tech on Saturday.

With a 66-55 win over Jacksonville State on Thursday, the 15th-ranked Racers (17-0, 5-0) set the mark for best start in school history and matched the record for longest winning streak.

Murray State, No. 1 Syracuse and No. 4 Baylor are the only unbeaten teams left out of 345 playing in Division I.

"Great seasons develop, you don't forecast a season," said coach Steve Prohm, whose team bested a 16-0 start by the 1935-36 squad. "The biggest thing that I'm about as a coach is I want our chemistry to be great. I want these players to know I care about them, trust them, love them and that they've got to feel that same way about their teammates."

Murray State also won 17 in a row during the 2009-10 season, when it advanced to the NCAA tournament and upset Vanderbilt in the first round. It's been another dream season for the Racers, who have a legitimate chance to finish undefeated - provided they can win the OVC tournament.

However, they'll need to get past Tennessee Tech (11-6, 3-1), perhaps their toughest challenge in conference play. Not only do the Golden Eagles have the second-most wins in the league, they also knocked off Murray State in the OVC tournament semifinals last season, the last conference team to beat the Racers.

Problem is, they're still a long way behind Murray State, which has won its five conference games by an average of 17.8 points.

Even when the Racers have an off night, they find a way to win. Murray State shot just 18.2 percent (2 for 11) from 3-point range - by far the worst performance of the season for a team averaging 44.6 percent on 3-pointers coming into the game - but still pulled away to beat Jacksonville State.

"We missed some open 3s, we missed free throws from people who need to make them and when we had chances to extend the lead, we didn't," Prohm said. "It's not going to be pretty every night, and I'm proud of my guys' resiliency and ability to compete and stay in there and win the basketball game."

The Racers have won 15 in a row and 40 of 42 at home.

Tennessee Tech has won three in a row and eight of 10. The Golden Eagles downed Morehead State 66-55 last Saturday to avenge last year's defeat in the OVC championship as Kevin Murphy made six 3-pointers and scored 24 points.

Murphy leads the conference with 19.7 points per game while 6-foot-5 teammate Jud Dillard tops the OVC with an average of 8.5 rebounds. Dillard also averages 18.2 points, second in the conference.

The Golden Eagles haven't beaten a ranked team since getting past No. 15 Southern Mississippi in 1990. The Racers, who had won five in a row over Tennessee Tech before the defeat in the conference tournament, lead the all-time series 121-47.

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