MURRAY - The words "chippy" and "character" held sway in Murray State's convincing 86-62 victory over Nebraska Omaha in their CollegeInsider.com Tournament second-round game Monday night at the CFSB Center.
Murray State knew it had to keep its character against the chippy Mavericks, whose main goal was to discombobulate the Racers and get them out of their game. It's just that the tactics didn't pan out well for an Omaha team that jumped out to a 9-2 lead in the first half, but ended up trailing by double digits the entire second half, including succumbing to a game-ending 16-4 run that put the Mavericks down 86-60 with 1:40 to play.
For the Racers (20-11), it helped that 6-foot-7 forward Jonathan Fairell was there in the middle to keep Omaha in check.
"It got chippy out there, but Coach P told us to keep our character," said Fairell, who grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds to go along with his 14 points. "In the locker room he had character highlighted on the board and he told us we had to keep our character when we got out on the floor. We lost it a little bit. But we pulled together and we just did what we could to maintain our character and pulled it through."
Murray State coach Steve Prohm agreed.
"It was real chippy out there. Good thing we have Fairell, because if he wasn't doing this he'd be a defensive end for the Chicago Bears or he'd be fighting Hulk Hogan in the WWE. So I wasn't worried about us and I thought Fairell would be able to handle his own out there. But it was chippy.
"But it was good because it was good to see our guys have to respond to a different level of toughness. We had to match it and I thought we did. We tell our guys that great teams are comprised with great character, great toughness and great ability. With two of the three you can be good. But with all three, you can be special."
Jeffery Moss ended the night as Murray State's top scorer with 17 points. Cameron Payne finished with 15, Fairell and Jarvis Williams both had 14, and T.J. Sapp, who did not play at Missouri State, came through with 10 points. Dexter Fields, who scored six points on two 3-pointers, eclipsed the 500-point mark on his first trey and has 504 in his two seasons.
Omaha (17-15) had Justin Simmons lead it with 14 points. Devin Patterson scored 12 and John Karhoff had 10. Mike Rostampour led the Mavericks with 12 rebounds.
The Racers move onto the CIT quarterfinals and will host Towson (25-10) at 7 p.m. Thursday in the CFSB Center. It will make it the latest college postseason game ever played in the CFSB Center. Tickets for season-ticket holders will be sold until 2 p.m. today.
The victory also pushed Murray State over the 20-win mark for a record fifth-straight season. This year's team came in tied with teams from 1996-2000 that had four straight 20-win seasons under Mark Gottfried and Tevester Anderson.
The current five-straight, 20-win streak started with former coach Billy Kennedy during the 2009-10 campaign. In the past five seasons - the last three under Prohm - the Racers are 126-37. Prohm is 72-23 in his three years.
"That's a great achievement and especially when you start the season 2-and-5 and you go into the season with a lot of adversity," Prohm said. "Now we're 18-6 in our last 24 games, so I'm really proud of them and proud to be apart of a terrific program like Murray State."
Omaha got the game within 14 points twice in the second half, the last time 70-56 with 5:08 to play on a Rostampour free throw.
The Racers responded with their 16-4 run and took their biggest lead of the game, 86-60 with 1:40 left on Terron Gilmore's layup.
Call James D. Horne, a Sun sports writer, at 270-575-8661 or follow on Twitter @psunsports.
Murray St. 86, Omaha 62
OMAHA (17-15) - Patterson 4-11 2-2 12, Rostampour 2-5 2-7 6, Carter 1-7 0-0 2, Simmons 5-14 2-2 14, Karhoff 4-9 2-3 10, Phillips 1-5 0-1 2, Steffensmeier 2-4 0-0 5, Tyus 4-8 0-0 9, Krych 0-0 0-0 0, Hagerbaumer 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 24-65 8-15 62.
MURRAY ST. (20-11) - Payne 7-17 0-0 15, Fairell 5-6 4-5 14, Williams 7-11 0-0 14, Fields 2-7 0-1 6, Moss 5-11 4-4 17, Ford 1-1 0-0 2, Rambo 2-3 2-2 6, Martin 0-1 0-0 0, Sapp 2-7 5-6 10, Gilmore 1-1 0-0 2, Henderson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 32-65 15-18 86.
Halftime-Murray St. 47-34. 3-Point Goals-Omaha 6-27 (Patterson 2-7, Simmons 2-9, Steffensmeier 1-2, Tyus 1-3, Phillips 0-2, Carter 0-4), Murray St. 7-20 (Moss 3-5, Fields 2-5, Sapp 1-3, Payne 1-7). Fouled Out-Karhoff, Williams. Rebounds-Omaha 35 (Rostampour 12), Murray St. 46 (Fairell 13). Assists-Omaha 9 (Karhoff, Patterson 2), Murray St. 14 (Payne 6). Total Fouls-Omaha 17, Murray St. 17. Technicals-Carter, Rostampour, Fairell, Moss. A-3,254.