Murray State's problem-solving on display at JSU

AP files

John Pelphrey smiles during a post-game show while commentating during a game between Arkansas and Mississippi State on Jan. 9, 2016, in Fayetteville, Ark. A longtime coach and assistant around the country, as well as "unforgettable" Kentucky Wildcat, Pelphrey is now the coach of Tennessee Tech. Murray State plays the Golden Eagles in Cookeville, Tenn., tonight.

Ray Harper's signature 1-2-2 full-court pressure nearly got the best of Murray State on Thursday night at Pete Mathews Coliseum in Jacksonville, Alabama.

Down 35-30 at the break, Jacksonville State took a 48-43 lead with 12 minutes to go -- courtesy of some uncomfortable spacing for the Racers, who committed 11 turnovers in the half and seven against this specific defensive look.

But at the 15:49 mark, MSU coach Matt McMahon switched out freshman point guard DaQuan Smith for another freshman point guard in Chico Carter Jr., and at the under-12 media timeout, the Racers changed up their offensive attack entirely.

Carter, sophomore Tevin Brown and senior Jaiveon Eaves all took turns bringing the ball up the court. And from the 12-minute mark to 6:11, the Racers committed zero turnovers, and got seven points from Brown, four from junior Devin Gilmore, three from Eaves, and two each from Carter and K.J. Williams.

"We were able to get in the middle, and then attack and make some good plays," McMahon said. "Tevin (Brown) and Jaiveon (Eaves) made some really nice finishes there, and did a good job attacking it.

"Still too many turnovers as a whole, but I thought that stretch was really key to the game."

By then, MSU possessed a 61-58 lead on JSU -- an 18-10 flip that showcased a little bit of the Racers' problem-solving skills in crunch time. Brown and Eaves opened the stretch with back-to-back steals, as well, and MSU's defense held the Gamecocks to one jumper, one 3-pointer and five free throws in those six minutes.

"I thought that attacking the pressure, getting into the middle of the floor and making good decisions (was key)," McMahon said. "We talk about it all the time, but defense and offense go hand-in-hand. When we went on our run, we were able to get a lot of stops. Push it out in the open floor. We got a lot of 2-on-1, 3-on-2 opportunities where we either scored or got to the free-throw line and made free throws."

Added Brown, who scored 14 of his 24 points in a contentious second half: "It's a good press. But we just slowed down, and beat it."

'Bama boys

Brown, a Fairhope, Alabama native, and freshman forward Demond Robinson, a Montgomery, Alabama, native, were more than effective against the Gamecocks on Thursday night, as Brown went 7-for-15 and buried a clutch 3-pointer with 1:22 to go, and Robinson thundered the rim in the first two minutes of the game and finished with seven points, four rebounds, one block, two steals and no turnovers.

Coincidence? Or comfort?

"It was just like a home game for us," Brown said. "Because we had a lot of family come here to watch us play. We just tried to do our best.

"(Demond) was very big. Very, very, very energetic for us. And we needed that a lot."

Tech time

MSU's next opponent, Tennessee Tech at 7:30 tonight at the Eblen Center in Cookeville, Tennessee, is now guided by former Kentucky Wildcats star and Paintsville, Kentucky, native John Pelphrey. He took over for the Golden Eagles after the non-renewal of longtime coach Steve Payne on April 6.

One of Kentucky's "Unforgettables" with his No. 34 retired at UK, Pelphrey's coaching career has taken him to Oklahoma State, Florida, Marshall and Alabama as an assistant, and to South Alabama and Arkansas as a head coach.

In 2006, he was named the Sun Belt Coach of the Year after guiding the Jaguars to a 24-7 record and a trip to the NCAA Tournament.

These Golden Eagles (3-13, 0-3 Ohio Valley), however, are in the midst of a rebuild, holding just one Division I win (61-58 at Winthrop on Nov. 21, 2019) in these first 16 games.

Perhaps in a quest for consistency and chemistry, Pelphrey has already employed 11 different players in his starting lineup. Not one player on his roster has started every game, but four players -- sophomore guard Jr. Clay (11.4 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 41.5% shooting), senior guard and Baylor transfer Darius Allen (8.3 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 35.9% shooting), sophomore forward Amadou Sylla (6.9 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 54.2% shooting), and junior forward Larry Kuimi (3.8 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 48.2% shooting) -- have appeared in every game.

Where Tech has found a little success is at the 3-point line, as five players (Clay, Allen, sophomore guard Hunter Vick, sophomore guard Jared Sherfield, and senior guard Cade Crosland) are all shooting north of 30% from the arc.

By the Numbers

MSU TTU

PPG 75.9 62.6

PA 62.6 72.4

FG% 48.2 40.4

FG%D 38.7 46.4

3PT% 33.8 32.1

3PT%D 33.1 36.2

FT% 69.8 64.3

REB 39.2 34.6

RMAR plus-10 minus-1.5

APG 14.7 12.5

TOPG 13.9 15.9

SPG 5.7 6.7

BPG 3.7 3.0

Murray State vs. Tennessee Tech

Time: 7:30 tonight

Location: Cookeville, Tenn.

Venue: Eblen Center (9,280)

MSU Head Coach: Matt McMahon (97-47, 5th year)

TTU Head Coach: John Pelphrey (152-139, 10th year, 1st at TTU)

All-Time Series: MSU leads 129-49

Last Met: Feb. 2, 2019 (MSU won 67-63)

Listen Live: Froggy 103.7 FM (PxP: Neal Bradley, Color: Kenny Roth)

Follow Live: ESPN+, @RacersHoops, @RacerDave23, @dreamarlowe85

By the Numbers

MSU TTU

PPG 75.9 62.6

PA 62.6 72.4

FG% 48.2 40.4

FG%D 38.7 46.4

3PT% 33.8 32.1

3PT%D 33.1 36.2

FT% 69.8 64.3

REB 39.2 34.6

RMAR plus-10 minus-1.5

APG 14.7 12.5

TOPG 13.9 15.9

SPG 5.7 6.7

BPG 3.7 3.0

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