Wilson leads Murray State over Eastern IllinoisMurray State's Ivan Aska (42) shoots a layup against an Eastern Illinois defender during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Friday, Dec. 30, 2011, in Charleston, Ill. (AP Photo/Stephen Haas)
CHARLESTON, Ill. (AP) With its national profile on the rise, No. 20 Murray State is growing accustomed to playing in front of larger crowds both at home and on the road.
Eastern Illinois got a taste of that Friday night with its biggest crowd of the season - and not all of them were there to cheer on the home team.
Reserve Stacy Wilson scored 16 points to lead Murray State to an easy 73-40 win over Eastern Illinois.
''The crowd tonight was unbelievable. The place looked packed to me, both sides looked packed,'' Murray State coach Steve Prohm said. ''It looked like half of it was our fans, so I'm really appreciative of the Murray community coming up here and supporting us.''
Jewuan Long added 14 points and three assists for Murray State (14-0, 2-0 Ohio Valley Conference), which hit a season-high 12 3-pointers. Wilson made 4 of 7 shots from beyond the arc.
''I just had some open looks and I knocked down shots. I have to credit my teammates for getting me open,'' Wilson said.
Jeremey Granger scored 12 points to lead the Panthers (6-6, 0-1), who have lost four straight and dropped to 5-1 at home.
Murray State, which entered the day as one four unbeaten teams in the country, is off to the program's best start in 75 years. The Racers' 14-0 start trails only the 1935-36 team that started 16-0.
The Racers' harassed Eastern Illinois into 12 turnovers and a season-low 27 percent (13 for 48) shooting from the field.
''We've played a little better offense and you give them credit for what they did,'' Eastern Illinois coach Mike Miller said.
Wilson was pressed into duty because leading scorer Isaiah Canaan picked up a pair of early fouls in the first half. But with Canaan benched, Murray State didn't experience any drop off.
Eastern Illinois held a 6-5 lead 2 minutes into the game, but the Racers broke off a 29-4 run over the next 12 minutes to seize control of the game.
''That's what I was probably most pleased with,'' Prohm said. ''For (Canaan) to go out and us to really extend the lead and go on a big run with him not on the floor was huge. Guys like Stacy Wilson made some big plays, Zay Jackson (five points, three rebounds) and then Donte (Poole) and Jewuan were very steady out there as well.''
Murray State was the first Top 25 team to play at Lantz Arena and the Racers showed the home crowd why they were deserving of that ranking. They hit all four of their 3-point attempts during the decisive first-half run, with each 3 coming from a different player. Murray State finished 12 for 24 from behind the arc.
''They've always been a good, efficient team, but I think what separates them now is their 3-point shooting,'' Miller said.
Eastern Illinois, which is 0-16 al-time against ranked opponents, tried a little bit of everything on the defensive end to slow the Racers - both man-to-man and in a zone - but nothing worked.
Murray State shot 59 percent (16 for 27) in the first half, including 6 of 10 from long range. The Racers scored 17 points off turnovers and got 32 points from their reserves - compared to just six from the Eastern Illinois bench.
''It says we're deep, we don't depend on one player,'' Wilson said. ''We've got a lot of guys that come in and help the team out and that's what I did tonight. We had a couple players get in early foul trouble and I just wanted to come in and help the team the best way I can.''