The Skyhawk women’s basketball team was on the wrong side of history Wednesday afternoon, becoming the first one-seed to lose to an eight-seed in Ohio Valley Conference Tournament history.
It was the second time the Skyhawks (21-9) faced off against the Racers (12-16) in the last week, but according to UTM head coach Kevin McMillan, it was a different Murray State team than they were accustomed to.
“I thought it was a game where if Murray shoots it well then they have a chance to win it, and they shot it well,” said McMillan. “We played them twice in the regular season, and they didn’t shoot it that good either time. We weren’t able to disrupt them like we were able to the first two times. Give them credit, they kept battling.”
The Skyhawks struggled to open the game, and the Racers took advantage by jumping out to an early 11-4 lead. The Skyhawks answered back with an 11-0 run but could not pull away from the Racers. Murray State eventually took a two point lead at the end of the first quarter.
The Racers once again took a eight point lead early in the second quarter, but the Skyhawks responded again with a couple of key defensive stops and easy layups.
Unlike their matchup last Saturday night, where the Skyhawks inked out a 21 point win, Murray State kept the game close thanks in large part to the Racers 3-point shooting. Murray State, who during the regular season averaged seven 3-pointers per game, hit seven 3-pointers in the first half alone. Both teams swapped the lead 10 times in the first half and six times in the last six minutes. At the end of the half, the Skyhawks found themselves trailing by one point, 40-39.
Both teams continued their back-and-forth battle in the second half. Both the Skyhawks and the Racers swapped the lead eight times before the Racers went on a 12-0 run and took an 11 point lead. The Skyhawks responded with an 13-3 run and cut Murray State’s lead back to one.
With 19.4 seconds remaining, Murray State’s Ke’Shunan James hit one of two free-throws to give the Racers a two point lead. The Skyhawks had an opportunity to take the lead or tie the game, but a missed 3-point buzzer beater by Katie Schubert gave Murray State the 78-76 win.
“Tip your hat to Murray, I thought they played harder than we did at the beginning of the game, and that kind of put us back on our heels,” said McMillan. “We did a good job fighting back, but we never seemed to get control when we had the ball and a lead and a chance to execute.”
Ke’Shunan James led the Racers in scoring and rebounding with 20 points and 13 rebounds. Shy Copney led the Skyhawks in the scoring column with 18 points.
Overall, the Skyhawks had better shooting percentages than the Racers. The Skyhawks shot 50 percent (31-62), 37 percent from 3-point range (10-27) and 67 percent from the free throw line (4-6). Murray State however shot 45 percent (28-62) overall, 37 percent from 3-point range (14-38) and 89 percent from the free throw line (8-9). The Skyhawks out-rebounded the Racers 36-30 but committed 14 turnovers compared to Murray State’s 12.
The Skyhawks’ chances of returning to the NCAA Tournament may have been dashed due to the loss, but because the Skyhawks won the OVC regular season title, they will have an opportunity to compete in the WNIT. The tournament field will be decided next week.