It's clear that the last five road games - Belmont, Tennessee State, Austin Peay, Eastern Illinois, SIU Edwardsville -- have served as a true test for Murray State.

The Racers (20-8, 13-3 Ohio Valley Conference) -- who are averaging 75.6 points per game on the season -- managed to score 64.8 per game and go 2-3 in the span, while committing what amounted to 21% of the team's turnovers (82) on the year in just this stretch.

Freshman point guard DaQuan Smith had 13 of those 82 turnovers, albeit in heavy workloads: 39 minutes against the Bruins, 35 against the Tigers, 33 against the Governors, 26 against the Panthers and 20 against the Cougars.

Like most freshman, he's still learning, and two other freshmen -- Chico Carter Jr. and Noah Kamba -- have picked up playing time, as point guard continues to be the youngest, and most tasked, position on this squad.

A broken finger and an undisclosed illness sidelined Carter 10 games, which pushed Kamba into some minutes.

And, quietly, both were pivotal in Saturday's season-saving 59-58 win at SIU Edwardsville, as an OVC Tournament double-bye is still in play for the Racers.

"Chico's decision-making, and having another passer and offensive creator on the floor, is huge for us," noted MSU coach Matt McMahon. "And I can't say enough about the play he made (against SIU Edwardsville) to end the game. Was really proud of our team there. (The Cougars) switch to a zone, and we had to switch our call there on the fly. We made five passes in under eight seconds. (Chico) made a great read in his progression there. He had Jaiveon (Eaves) or Tevin (Brown) there open for the three. He got Tevin an open look there to win the game.

"And Noah was terrific defensively, in both games against Edwardsville. I have a lot of respect for (Tyresse) Williford, and his ability to control the game at the point guard position as a senior. And I thought Noah came in and really defended him well on Saturday. Much the same way he did in the first matchup at home."

Brown bounceback

Brown has been, and will continue to be, more than a marskman.

But his prolific 3-point shooting -- 41% coming into tonight -- has seen a tough turn as of late.

From Jan. 18 to Feb. 1, the Fairhope, Alabama, sophomore guard made 21-for-37 from behind the arc: good for 56.7% from deep. Four of those five games were in the CFSB Center.

Since, he's gone 8-for-36: good for 25%. Five of the six games in the span were bus trips.

"Over analysis leads to mental paralysis," McMahon said. "I just think he needs to go play. I think it's one of those things where when you have a really good player -- and a really good shooter -- we can sit and analyze it all we want. We can talk about 'you've got to make this shot' or 'you've got to make these free throws.'

"But I think he's the type of player who's going to get in the gym and work. I think that's where you get your confidence when you're not playing well, or shooting the ball as well as you like. I think you just get in the gym and you invest more time in it. See the ball go in the basket. Gain confidence from that. I think he'll have great confidence at home, where he's played exceptionally well all season long. And, quite frankly, it's not something I'm concerned about at all."

Colonels coming

A lot of things need to happen before there's any clarity in seeding for next week's OVC Tournament at the Ford Center in Evansville, Indiana.

But a win tonight against upstart Eastern Kentucky would be a strong move in the direction for a conference championship and one of the league's two double byes into the Friday night semifinals.

Where the Colonels (14-15, 11-5) have butter their bread, however, is forcing turnovers. And it's propelled them to their best league start since 1979.

They lead the league in turnover differential (plus-4.3), average more than nine steals per game as a team, and have generally forced conference squads into uncomfortable offensive sets. Five players -- Jomaru Brown (53), Ty Taylor (32), Tre King (35), Michael Moreno (21), Russ Cruickshank (33) and JacQuess Hobbs (47) -- have more than 20 pilfers on the season, while Brown (18.7 ppg), Taylor (12.6 ppg) and King (11.6 ppg) have been the conduit of a high-powered offense.

"They can mix their full-court pressure and traps, and they also mix in some extended 2-3 zone," McMahon said. "Just a very talented team. Think they're very well coached, and play extremely hard. It's been a big reason for their success as they moved from non-conference into league play."

The intense pressure has created one critical deficiency: rebounding margin. The Colonels have been outrebounded an average 40.4-to-33.3 per game. But the frenetic pace (74.5 possessions per 40 minutes, fourth in KenPom), at least in league play, has been a boon.

Murray State vs. Eastern Kentucky

Time: 7 tonight

Location: Murray

Venue: CFSB Center (8,600)

MSU Head Coach: Matt McMahon (106-50, 5th year)

EKU Head Coach: A.W. Hamilton (27-33, 2nd year)

All-Time Series: MSU leads 102-61

Last Met: Feb. 20, 2019 (MSU won 102-70)

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

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

By the Numbers

MSU EKU

PPG 75.6 76.3

PA 64.6 76.9

FG% 47.9 41.9

FG%D 39.9 45.8

3PT% 36.7 32.8

3PT%D 31.9 32.6

FT% 70.8 72.8

REB 37.8 33.3

RMAR plus-6.9 minus-7.1

APG 14.4 12.7

TOPG 13.9 14.1

SPG 5.4 9.2

BPG 3.8 2.1

Murray State vs. Eastern Kentucky

Time: 7 tonight

Location: Murray

Venue: CFSB Center (8,600)

MSU Head Coach: Matt McMahon (106-50, 5th year)

EKU Head Coach: A.W. Hamilton (27-33, 2nd year)

All-Time Series: MSU leads 102-61

Last Met: Feb. 20, 2019 (MSU won 102-70)

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

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

By the Numbers

MSU EKU

PPG 75.6 76.3

PA 64.6 76.9

FG% 47.9 41.9

FG%D 39.9 45.8

3PT% 36.7 32.8

3PT%D 31.9 32.6

FT% 70.8 72.8

REB 37.8 33.3

RMAR plus-6.9 minus-7.1

APG 14.4 12.7

TOPG 13.9 14.1

SPG 5.4 9.2

BPG 3.8 2.1

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