JACKSONVILLE, Ala. -- Murray State shot only 3-for-15 from the arc on Thursday night at Pete Mathews Coliseum.
But the Racers' only make of the second half against Jacksonville State was an absolute dagger from Tevin Brown at the top of the key with 1:22 left, and MSU held on for its first road win of the season, 72-68, against the Gamecocks.
"Really good execution by our players," noted Racers fifth-year coach Matt McMahon. "Great patience to get to the next option, instead of forcing it. We were trying to get it to KJ down in the post. We got the ball into him (from Chico Carter Jr.). They came to attack him. We got a great pin down to free Tevin up at the top of the key, and he stepped up and made a huge shot.
"But KJ had to have the maturity and the vision to make that play, and he got a great screen from Anthony (Smith) there."
Brown would finish with 24 points on 7-for-15 shooting and 2-for-8 from the arc -- including 14 in a takeover second-half performance.
And once again, he played all 40 minutes.
"That was just a defensive breakdown that had me wide open there," Brown said. "There wasn't really a play for it."
So he wasn't supposed to be that wide open?
"I would hope not," he added.
MSU (10-5, 3-0 Ohio Valley Conference) trailed by as much as 48-43 after an easy layup from junior Czech Republic forward Martin Roub with 11:40 to go. JSU's full-court pressure -- mostly in a 1-2-2 trap -- had caused havoc, and the Gamecocks had taken advantage.
But a 14-2 run from the Racers out of the under-12 media timeout -- a Jaiveon Eaves layup, a Brown steal-and-layup-and-freebie, an Eaves steal and free throw, a Brown jumper, a Williams fastbreak layup, two free throws from Carter, two more free throws from Brown and a layup from Devin Gilmore -- had MSU in control for good.
"I think it started on the defensive end of the floor," McMahon said. "Led to some transition baskets and free-throw attempts that we were able to convert." In its last six games, JSU had been shooting north of 40% from the arc and had outrebounded all opponents, save Tennessee.
But while they did outrebound the Racers, 36-34, JSU was held to 35% shooting from the floor and 25% from the arc (7-for-28), in what was a complete defensive effort for MSU.
"They're a really good team," McMahon said. "And if you're looking at the stats, in their five home games, they're making over 12 threes a game at 44%. I thought that would be a big key to the game. And I'm sure they probably feel like they just missed a few, but I thought our effort to contest shots was really good, and our defensive rebounding in the second half was much improved."
Racers stake halftime lead
An early punch from freshman forward Demond Robinson, including five points and three rebounds in the first five minutes, helped MSU to a 9-3 lead from the gate. The Gamecocks were just 1-for-7 from the floor at the first media timeout. Former Christian County star and JSU sophomore guard De'Torrion Ware (15 points, 3-for-10 shooting) scored eight straight points for the Gamecocks, tying the game at 11-all, and a 3-pointer from Elias Harden gave JSU a 21-20 advantage.
But MSU maintained a 35-30 lead at halftime after outscoring JSU 15-9 in the final seven minutes, including seven straight points from Brown.
The Racers shot 13-for-28 in the first 20 minutes, carving up the inside, but went 2-for-11 from the arc. As such, JSU held a 19-14 rebounding edge on the Racers, an uncharacteristic stat for MSU this season.
MURRAY ST. (10-5)
A.Smith 2-5 3-6 7, Brown 7-15 8-10 24, Carter 3-7 3-4 9, D.Smith 0-4 0-0 0, Eaves 2-5 2-4 6, Gilmore 3-3 0-0 6, Holliday 0-0 0-0 0, M.Smith 0-0 0-0 0, Robinson 3-5 1-1 7, Williams 6-8 0-0 13. Totals 26-52 17-25 72.
JACKSONVILLE ST. (7-9)
Cook 3-8 1-2 7, Cross 6-8 4-4 16, Harden 3-8 3-4 12, Henry 1-8 0-1 2, Hudson 0-6 2-4 2, Roub 4-8 2-2 12, St. Hilaire 0-1 0-0 0, Ware 3-10 7-7 15, Zeliznak 1-3 0-0 2. Totals 21-60 19-24 68.
Halftime: Murray St. 35-30. 3-Point Goals: Murray St. 3-15 (Brown 2-8, Williams 1-1, Eaves 0-1, D.Smith 0-2, Carter 0-3), Jacksonville St. 7-28 (Harden 3-7, Roub 2-5, Ware 2-8, St. Hilaire 0-1, Cook 0-2, Henry 0-2, Hudson 0-3). Rebounds: Murray St. 35 (A.Smith 8), Jacksonville St. 31 (Ware 7). Assists: Murray St. 10 (Eaves 4), Jacksonville St. 13 (Cook 7). Total Fouls: Murray St. 20, Jacksonville St. 18.