After a sordid first half in which the Racers shot 13.3 percent from beyond the arc, Murray State finally found its offense. That very offense has now allowed them to be the first team to officially punch its ticket to the NCAA Tournament.
For the first time since 2012, the Racers are going dancing, and they’ve got OVC Player of the Year Jonathan Stark to thank for that. After looking abysmal in the first half, he managed to actually piece it together, putting on a scoring clinic. In the end, he managed to put up 24 points, putting in work for 39 minutes of game time.
One big lesson from Saturday night was that Stark is simply unstoppable. Just when you begin thinking he’s capable of poor performances, he does something like lead an unreal second half comeback against a more than competent Belmont team. He is stunning.
Along with Stark, true freshman Ja Morant managed to provide a solid performance that was consistent from start to finish. He was a reliable producer who the Racers could count on from start to finish this evening. Even when no one else was hitting, Morant was there to weather the storm, finishing with 15 points and five assists.
Below are the final stats from tonight’s game:
Ultimately, it was Murray State finding its typical three-point shooting self that provided the separation. Indeed, the shots finally fell (hello to supporters of the law of averages) because Murray State would simply not stop throwing them up.
FINAL, MBB, OVC Championship:— Edward Alan Marlowe (@dreamarlowe85) March 4, 2018
Murray State 68, Belmont 51.
The 2017-18 Racers are 26-5, winners of 13th straight and the Ohio Valley Conference champion.
Stark and Miller get their wish.
Honestly, things could have easily gone the other way tonight. Kevin McClain had the Bruins’ best performance, but Dylan Windler wasn’t his normal self. Combine that with Amanze Egekeze’s 2-for-12 shooting mark (along with his 1-10 3FG night), and it’s easy to see why Belmont lost.
Kudos to Belmont for a great season. Either of these teams would have been an amazing representative of the OVC in the Big Dance, and both would have had major potential to pull off a big time upset.
As of right now, I’m someone who is very confident that Jonathan Stark will be a household name in just a few weeks’ time.