MVP Sports Channel

A View From the Endzone (An OVC Basketball Blog)

My Trip to the #PuniMuni

​The doors creaked open, the lights barely came on, the roof somehow stood still (even though Mother Nature tried to change that), and the sad, dated Municipal Auditorium welcomed the Ohio Valley Conference’s annual tournament to Nashville.

​The OVC has been very successful at giving us nail-biting tournament finishes over the last few years, with Morehead State and Austin Peay going to double-overtime in 2009 before the Eagles won with 2.4 seconds to go, the next year, the little known freshman Isaiah Canaan led Murray State to their 30th win of the season while picking up his first tournament MVP award, and last year, the high-flying Eagles ran all over Tennessee Tech behind “TheManimal” Kenneth Faried and cohorts Demonte Harperand Sam Goodman, as they won their second title in three years.  But those close games wouldn’t hold a candle to what was on the line Saturday, in what was a meaningless game for half of the participants.  Well, meaningless on paper that is.

​The Racers had successfully locked up a bid to the NCAA tournament with a win over Saint Mary’s College on Feb. 18, meaning the Racers’ were playing for seeding, as well as the title of OVC Champions, the 15th for the school less than 100 years old.

​Their opponent, Tennessee State, who came into Murray on Feb. 9 and shocked the nation by pulling off a 72-68 win in the CFSB Center, would be ready for the rubber game of the year, as the Tigers proved there was only one team in this league able to really compete with the Racers.

 

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​Tournament championships mean the world to the little western Kentucky city, where, as head basketball coach Steve Prohm says; “there are two teams people in Murray love, Saint Louis Cardinals’ baseball and Racer basketball.”

​While Prohm always leaves a different blue team from Kentucky out in that quote, Racer fans prove him right game in and game out, and no matter when that “other” team was playing, the CFSB Center was still sold out, more than 8,500 of your closest friends, all with the common goal of helping the Racers pull off another victory.

​Municipal Auditorium was more like CFSB South on Friday and Saturday, with a session record of over 5000 people in the building on Friday for the MSU vs. Tennessee Tech and Morehead State vs. Tennessee State session.  Racer fans came out in full force, screaming for the team they so dearly love, trying to finish a three-game sweep of the Golden Eagles, which they did with ease, cruising to a 78-58 win, which sent TTU heading back to Cookeville, and MSU fans heading to Broadway.

​The Racer faithful did a great job representing MSU at the game, and an even better job at a local piano bar, where the performers began a rendition of the famed Tennessee fight song “Rocky Top,” which was interrupted by a series of boos, and immediately changed to an incredible cover of “The Old Gray Mare,” which elated the wall to wall visitors from Murray who travelled over 150 miles for the tournament.

​A Google Maps search shows Tennessee State University is located 3.1 miles from Municipal, however the Tigers were on spring break, meaning yet again, the old building on the north end of downtown would become CFSB South.

 

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Tennessee State fans successfully filled their three allotted sections of the arena, and did a great job supportingtheir team (you have to give credit where credit is due, they were good fans).   However MSU Fans took all of the remaining floor seats, all lower bowl seats, and even filled several of the sections in the upper part of the arena, all to be one of the 6,454 people who watched history in the making. Murray State became the 56th team in the history of the NCAA Tournament to enter with a one-loss record (two teams still have that chance, but have to play in their respective conference tournaments this week).

​The Murray faithful spent most of the game thinking this would be a repeat of the only loss of the season, but one of the best heads-up plays of the season changed all of that when senior Donte Poole saved an over-and-back call with the game on the line.

​Senior Jewuan Long, the OVC Defensive Player of the year, took a pass from OVC Player of the Year, Isaiah Canaan and saved the racers on offense by nailing a runner off the glass with 4.4 seconds remaining, then Long-defended TSU’s Robert Covington on what could have been a game-winning three pointer.  Senior Ivan Aska came away with the rebound as the buzzer sounded, and the Racers were tournament champions, thanks to a close 54-52 win.

​In the end, Poole and Canaan were named to the all-tournament team, and Poole was named the tournament’s most valuable player.

​The conference will be forced to hold its tournament in that sad building for several more years, with the faded North Carolina blue floor, its bad lighting, and sub-par maintenance.  I’m sure when Municipal hosted the CMA’s in 1967, and The Jackson 5 three times in the ‘70s, it was an incredible venue, however the OVC Tournament in the 2010’s have seen a different side of the Music City’s dilapidated building.

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