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Racers Enjoy Post-Season Win, Awards

Racers

Murray, Ky.- Long after the CFSB Center locker room is cleaned out for the year, the basketball court cools off from the 2011-12 season and is put away for concerts, shows and events, everyone will still remember this season as the best season in Murray State Racers history.  The 31 wins, the two losses, the undefeated record in road games (the Racers were the only team in America to achieve such a mark), the 15th Ohio Valley Conference Tournament Championship, or lasting until they were the only undefeated team in Division 1 will be the main talking points about the team.  Isaiah Canaan and the three seniors Dante Poole, Ivan Aska and OVC Defensive Player of the Year Jewuan Long will forever be in the hearts of Racer Nation.  These four young men gave the residents of Murray the time of their lives, a season even better than the “Dream Season” of 2009-10 when the Racers set the mark they tied in 2012 with 31 wins, however that year the Racers lost five games.

Steve Prohm took over the helm of the Racers as Billy Kennedy headed for his dream job at Texas A&M.  Prohm was unproven and unknown to many people outside of western Kentucky, but quickly found the big stage when the Racers rolled off 23 straight wins to begin the season, including an upset over Southern Mississippi to win The Great Alaska Shootout.  MSU also picked up wins against Memphis and Western Kentucky along the way.

In late December, the Racers took care of Eastern Illinois with a 73-40 win, but what could have truly been the worst loss of the season when Aska broke a bone in his hand.  His team however, kept rolling, awaiting his return.  During the span, the Racers won five games handily, but had a tough time on the road against Morehead State, in which the team suffered its first halftime deficit, but rallied to win 66-60.

Aska returned as the Racers remained undefeated in taking down conference foes Eastern Illinois (where Aska returned to an outrageous ovation) Southeast Missouri, and UT Martin.

Then there was the night.  February 9, 2012, the CFSB Center packed to the rafters with Racer fans, as they “welcomed” Tennessee State to town.  The Tigers were the second hottest team in the OVC, having won seven of eight games leading up to the clash.  The Tigers would overcome a 13-point difference early in the second half to end a 13-month home winning streak 72-68.

From that point forward, the Racers were a different team, winning with imposing defense against team after team until it was announced they would take on the West Coast’s Saint Mary’s College in the ESPN BracketBuster feature game, where no one other than Dick Vitale himself would be in the building to call the game.

The Racers won another one by blowout, taking down the 16th ranked Gaels 65-51, and securing at least an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament.

The Racers won the rest of the regular season games, including a revenge win against Tennessee State in Nashville, then blew out a Tennessee Tech Team in the OVC semi-finals.  The win finished a three-game sweep of the Golden Eagles, and set up a rubber game between the Racers and the Tigers.

As most will remember, the team had all it could handle in the OVC Championship game, as it came down to Jewuan Long hitting a shot under the basket with 4.4 seconds remaining to seal the win for the Racers.

It was a rough two weeks for the Racers and their fans as the team awaited to see where it would be seeded, if it would break an OVC record for highest seed, if it would be a four, five or six, in Portland, Louisville, Columbus?

Murray was selected sixth in the West Region, and would play a first round game against Colorado State in the KFC Yum! Center.

It was the best of all situations if you ask the Rookie Coach, who said he would much rather be the six seed in Louisville than the four seed in Portland, which worked out for the best, as the Racers were able to take a large contingent of fans up the Western Kentucky Parkway for the second-round game.

Murray tied the school record with the win over the Rams, but went on to lose to Marquette of the Big East after a hard-fought game in which the Golden Eagles’ Jae Crowder put up 17 points and grabbed 13 rebounds while Ed Daniel pulled down 14 boards and Canaan scored 16 points.

This game may have ended the playing season, but the post-season awards began rolling in shortly after the Racers returned home from Louisville, as Canaan is a finalist for the Wooden Award, was named a First Team All-American by the sporting news, First Team All-District by the U.S. Basketball Writers’ Association, First Team All-District by the National Basketball Coaches Association as well as Third Team Division 1 All-American.  On Monday, Canaan was named a Second Team All-American by the Associated Press, and was named to the John R. Wooden All-America Team.

Coach Prohm was named coach of the year by several different outlets, including the Basketball Times, and the district Coach of the Year by the USBWA, and the NABC.  Prohm is also a finalist for the Durham and Phelan Coach of the Year Award for the best mid-major coach in the country.

Poole was named alongside Canaan as an All-District 19 selection by the NABC.

Whatever the Racers do in the future, no one will forget the 2011-12 Racer men’s basketball team.  Not in the hearts and minds of the coaches, players, and fans in Murray and all over the country, or record books, where two losses will be something many teams in American will try and fail to accomplish, on top of all the other new ink in the record books.

Murray State captured the hearts of basketball fans across the country, and by doing so, has left America wanting more from the senior-laden Racers of 2012-13.  But until November, all one can do is reflect on the season that was.

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