The Skyhawk men’s basketball team headed to Murray State on Saturday night for their final regular season game with the hopes of moving up just one spot in the conference standings before postseason play started.
The change from seventh to eighth place wouldn’t have allowed them to play at home in the first round of the OVC tournament, but it would have given the Skyhawks a chance to avoid playing their biggest rival in the league for the third time, and for the second straight game in Murray.
Coupled with victories by other OVC teams that night and the eventual 81-63 loss to the Racers, the Skyhawks remain at the bottom of the post-season contenders headed into today’s first round.
Things started out rocky for the Skyhawks at the RSEC, as Murray jumped out to a 13-0 lead 3:30 into the game.
The Skyhawks managed to pull to within three on a three pointer and layup by senior Jeremy Kelly, who finished the game with 25 points total.
This is the 22nd time this season that Kelly has finished in double digits, the 11th time with a point total 20 or above and the fourth consecutive game that he finished above that plateau.
Murray had no intentions of letting Kelly’s feats steal the show and they went on another run, pulling ahead by 10, 24-14, with 10 minutes left in the half.
The Skyhawks battled back and cut the deficit to one with a little over four minutes to go on a layup by senior Jared Newson and then again on a tough shot by junior Bubba Tolliver.
But Murray’s offense struck again and headed into the break, the Racers found themselves up by 12.
The second half didn’t fair much better for the Skyhawks who quickly found themselves down by 16 off a jumper by Keith Jennifer and two free throws from Darnell Hopkins.
With just under 15 minutes left, the Skyhawks closed the gap to just nine, which as close as they would be able to get the rest of the night.
Murray went deep in their bench for the 18 point victory, giving them their 19th OVC regular season championship.
Behind Kelly in scoring for the Skyhawks was junior Zerek Knight with 13 and Newson with 12.
Leading the team in rebounds was Newson with eight. Senior Cleve Woodfork and junior Will Lewis each picked up five boards.
The Skyhawks finish out the regular season with a 13-14 overall record and a 9-10 record in conference play.
Tip-off for tonight’s first round conference game is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Regional Special Events Center in Murray, Ky.
The winner of this game will travel to the second round at the Gaylord Entertainment Center in Nashville to face the winner of the Jacksonville State(4) vs. Eastern Ky.(5) game.
Tip-off for that game is set for 6 p.m. on Friday.