Racers know: turnovers bad road recipe

EDWARD MARLOWE | The Sun

Murray State's 3-point defense has taken a positive turn in the conference portion of the slate, particularly after holding Belmont to 4-for-25 from the arc on Thursday night in Nashville, Tenn. But the Racers' turnover struggles have been an issue, and particularly on the road.

Three times this season, Murray State has committed 20 or more turnovers.

Nov. 11, 2019. Opening night at the CFSB Center. The Racers handled a physical Southern University squad, 69-49, coached by former Kentucky star and Morehead State skipper Sean Woods. A lot of new pieces were in play for fifth-year Murray State coach Matt McMahon and his staff, but a 20-point win came anyway.

Dec. 21, 2019. A rare Saturday night at the Ford Center, as a then-hot Evansville squad edged the Racers, 78-76, in overtime. The Aces, now all but folding following the dismissal of its coach in former Kentucky star and NBA veteran Walter McCarty, had beaten the Wildcats at Rupp Arena and were enjoying a terrific non-conference finish.

And, then, on Feb. 6 at the Curb Center in Nashville, Tennessee. The Belmont Bruins, frustrated with an atypical 7-3 start to Ohio Valley Conference play, dug in for a pivotal win and mucked up the Racers' chance at the all-too-rare perfect conference finish.

The common theme here is simple: 20 or more turnovers in a hostile road environment, and against a good team, isn't going to lead to success.

That was the message from McMahon to his players following Thursday's defeat, which ended an 11-game winning streak and tightened the race for the 2019-20 regular-season championship banner – something of which this MSU team is actively seeking.

“It has been awhile,” McMahon said, at the though of losing. “I respect the effort our guys gave. I think that's kind of been a consistent piece of our team. That we play extremely hard.

“But to go on the road and beat good teams, obviously you can't turn the ball over 22 times. You can't have some of the breakdowns that we had at inopportune times.”

Quick turnaround?

Quick turnaround. Especially in the OVC, where Thursday's mistakes can mosey into Saturday, and lead to another loss.

“You can't let one loss become two,” McMahon added. “We know we have to get prepared for a good Tennessee State team. It'll be a great environment. And the final thing is: people scout. So they're going to watch the film, and they're going to see us throw the ball all over the gym, and we're going to see a lot pressure the rest of the season.

“So we've got to figure out how to take care of the ball.”

And especially away from the CFSB Center. The Racers are 5-6 when not on their home floor, and are turning the ball over 14.6 times in those 11 games, as opposed to an average 13.1 turnovers per game in Murray.

“It's really just to clean up the turnovers,” noted senior forward Anthony Smith. “And really just to come back tomorrow with our heads on high, and not really dwell on this game.”

Tigers untamed

Tennessee State picked up a colossal win on Thursday night, when it staved off another previous conference unbeaten in Austin Peay, 70-68, at the Gentry Center in Nashville, Tennessee.

Not only did it keep the Racers tied for first place in league play, but it thrust the Tigers (15-9, 7-4 OVC) very much into the conference conversation.

In the upset, TSU held OVC preseason Player of the Year Terry Taylor to 7-for-20 shooting, while phenom freshman guard Jordyn Adams went 3-for-15 from the field and notched just 12 points.

West Virginia graduate transfer guard Wesley Harris, who wasn't available the first time around when MSU topped the Tigers at the CFSB Center, had nine points, nine rebounds and two blocks against the Governors.

Second-year TSU coach and former Belmont star Penny Collins has five players averaging 10 or more points in league play: Harris, Jy'lan Washington, Shakem Johnson, Michael Littlejohn and Carlos Marshall, who leads the way at 15.9 ppg.

Murray State vs. Tennessee State

Time: 7:30 tonight

Location: Nashville, Tenn.

Venue: Gentry Center

MSU Head Coach: Matt McMahon (104-48, 5th year)

TSU Head Coach: Brian “Penny” Collins (24-30, 2nd year)

All-Time Series: MSU leads 55-17

Last Met: Jan. 25, 2020 (MSU won 76-64)

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

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

By the Numbers

MSU TSU

PPG 77.0 74.7

PA 65.0 72.6

FG% 48.2 48.0

FG%D 40.1 41.1

3PT% 36.6 35.8

3PT%D 32.9 32.9

FT% 71.7 65.3

REB 38.4 38.5

RMAR plus-8.3 plus-6.0

APG 15.0 14.1

TOPG 13.8 16.8

SPG 5.2 5.3

BPG 3.7 4.4

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