On Jan. 18, 2018, Murray State suffered what was then its second loss in Ohio Valley Conference play - 79-72 at Belmont - before reeling off six weeks of nothing but wins on the way to the NCAA Tournament.

On Jan. 31, 2019, it happened again. The Racers found themselves on the wrong end of an 88-68 loss at Jacksonville State, then didn't fall again until a second-round NCAA Tournament loss to Florida State in Hartford, Connecticut.

And this past Thursday in Clarksville, Tennessee, MSU suffered its second conference loss - this time in a hard-nosed 71-68 defeat to Austin Peay.

With five games to go before the 2020 OVC Tournament in Evansville, Indiana, history might need to repeat itself if the Racers desire another regular-season championship. The Governors, like the Racers, are 11-2 in OVC play, with the Bruins and Eastern Kentucky both lurking just one game back at 10-3.

Fifth-year coach Matt McMahon and his staff have grown accustomed to calling early February "the postseason," because the expectation is to earn the league's top seed and win a conference championship.

But he and his staff aren't the only ones used to this kind of pressure.

Sophomores Tevin Brown and KJ Williams were pivotal starters a year ago for those 28-5 Racers, and senior guard Jaiveon Eaves and junior forward Devin Gilmore were key rotation players.

Senior forward Anthony Smith was a top-seven rotation man for the Racers two years ago - a team that finished 26-6 and needed to bag double-digit games in order to fend off the rest of the OVC.

That's five guys who've dealt with the attrition that naturally comes in league play, and it's five guys of which McMahon and the rest of the roster will lean on in these next three pivotal weeks.

"We have some guys who have been through it before, and you certainly rely on their experiences," McMahon said. "Two years ago, we had to win 11 games in a row to win the regular season. Last year, we had to win our last nine to have an opportunity to win the regular season. Who knows how it's going to play out. We still have a lot of basketball left to be played, with five games ... and all five challenging games.

"But the way that we try to go about it is very simple. We try to just focus on the next-most important thing, which is just preparing to try and beat Morehead State (today). I don't think you sit around worrying about other team's scores, or where you're going to be in the standings 15 days from now. You're wasting a lot of time, energy and focus (if you do). We need to continue to just pour everything that we can into getting better as a team, and finding a way to win the next game. And that's all we really need to worry about right now."

Fight, no flight

Despite being 1-2 in the last three road games (Belmont, Tennessee State, Austin Peay), the Racers have erased multi-basket deficits in all three contests, either to tie or take late leads.

It's a promising, but hardly quantifiable, trait for a team to possess ... for a team to will itself out of tough situations.

"I don't know the best definition for it," McMahon said.

"I think you know it when you see it. We just always try to challenge our players to play with relentless effort. To make multiple-effort plays. And I don't think every team does that. I think it's a competitive advantage. I think you've got play the game with great physical and mental toughness. And it starts in recruiting. Who you bring into your program. And then those guys buying into the culture of what Murray State basketball is all about.

"And I think that toughness is one of the fundamental core values of who we are as a program."

Eagles up

Today in a rare 4 p.m. tipoff at the CFSB Center, Murray State hosts Morehead State (12-14, 6-7 OVC). It's a team that's been terrific on its home floor (10-3), but gone just 2-11 on the road.

Wins over Eastern Illinois, SIU Edwardsville, UT Martin, Southeast Missouri and Tennessee Tech have catapulted the Eagles into the conference tournament conversation, and fourth-year coach Preston Spradlin still has the services of senior all-league guard Jordan Walker (13.0 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 40 3-pointers) and senior guard Djimon Henson (10.6 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 41 3-pointers) - who've combined to do the bulk of the team's damage offensively this season.

Also on the line this afternoon: Murray State's home-winning streak, which is up to 12 games since last season's loss to Belmont.OVC Standings

Men

OVC All

Murray St. 11-2 18-7

Austin Peay 11-2 17-9

Belmont 10-3 19-7

E. Kentucky 10-3 13-13

Tennessee St. 7-6 15-11

Morehead St. 6-7 12-14

E. Illinois 5-8 12-13

Jacksonville St. 5-8 10-16

SIUE 4-9 7-19

Tenn. Tech 4-9 7-19

UT Martin 3-10 7-17

SE Missouri 2-11 6-20

Murray State vs. Morehead State

Time: 4 today

Location: Murray, Ky.

Venue: CFSB Center (8,600)

MSU Head Coach: Matt McMahon (105-49, 5th season)

MOSU Head Coach: Preston Spradlin (45-64, 4th season)

All-Time Series: MSU leads 114-51

Last Met: Feb. 28, 2019 (MSU won 71-52)

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

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

By the Numbers

MSU MoSU

PPG 76.5 69.9

PA 65.3 68.9

FG% 48.2 43.7

FG%D 40.1 41.8

3PT% 36.7 29.3

3PT%D 32.3 31.3

FT% 71.6 64.0

REB 38.0 37.8

RMAR plus-7.6 plus-1.0

APG 14.6 13.8

TOPG 13.9 12.2

SPG 5.3 6.3

BPG 3.6 4.5

OVC Standings Men OVC All

Murray St. 11-2 18-7

Austin Peay 11-2 17-9

Belmont 10-3 19-7

E. Kentucky 10-3 13-13

Tennessee St. 7-6 15-11

Morehead St. 6-7 12-14

E. Illinois 5-8 12-13

Jacksonville St. 5-8 10-16

SIUE 4-9 7-19

Tenn. Tech 4-9 7-19

UT Martin 3-10 7-17

SE Missouri 2-11 6-20

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