Murray State’s defense carries it into the Round of 32

1 Comment

No. 6 seed Murray State isn’t just a one man team, and No. 11 seed Colorado State learned that the hard way in the opening game of the opening round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament.

Isaiah Canaan is Steve Prohm’s all-american for the Racers, and while he led the team with 15 points in Thursday afternoon’s 58-41 win over the Rams, Canaan didn’t exactly play great. He was 4-13 from the floor and never seemed to get into a rhythm. At one point, when he airballed a three, he turned and looked at his coach who simply smiled and put his hands on his head.

Everyone has those days.

And for the Racers, it was an easy thing to overcome with the way that their defense played in the second half.

The Racers used an 18-2 run to turn a 24-23 deficit at the break into a 41-26 lead by the second TV timeout. And during that stretch, Murray State forced Colorado State into nine turnovers in their first 16 possessions. A number of those turnovers turned into layups and open threes at the other end of the floor. All told, the Rams turned the ball over 22 times — as opposed to just eight from Murray State — and coughed it up 14 times in the second half.

That’s an easy way to miss out on a chance to pull a first-round upset.

The win also gives Murray State quite a bit of hope heading into the rest of this tournament. Canaan played far from his best game. Donte Poole, the Racer’s second leading scorer, got hit in the nose with an elbow hard enough that he was forced to come out of the game with blood dripping. No one else scored more than seven points and, as a team, Murray State shot under 40% from the field.

But none of that matters when you force 22 turnovers and hold a team to 33.3% shooting.

Murray State advances to face the winner of No. 3 Marquette and No. 14 BYU.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.