LOUISVILLE, Ky. — There was nothing spectacular about the way Murray State dominated Colorado State in the second half of their NCAA tournament game today. The Racers did not make a pile of 3-pointers or necessarily run an efficient offense. What they did was smother the Rams with a man-to-man defense that ran Colorado State right out of the tournament.
No. 6 seed Murray State, down by 24-23 at halftime, held the 11th-seeded Rams to one basket for the first 9 1/2 minutes of the second half. The Racers built a comfortable lead with a 16-2 run and went on to a 58-41 victory in a second-round West Region game at the KFC Yum! Center.
Junior guard Isaiah Canaan, the player of the year in the Ohio Valley Conference, led Murray State with 15 points. Senior guard Donte Poole added 13 for the Racers, who are 31-1, their only loss coming Feb. 9 against Tennessee State in a conference game.
Pierce Hornung led Colorado State (20-12) with 12 points and 17 rebounds.
Poole left the game in the second half after being hit on the nose while defending. Poole's crash to the floor was typical of the intense defense the Racers played in the second half. Colorado State, out of the Mountain West Conference, made just 7 of 25 shots in the second half.
Colorado State turned the ball over 22 times, 14 in the second half, as Murray trapped on the wings and anticipated passes and batted them away possession after possession.
Murray State has the highest seed for an Ohio Valley team since the NCAA started seeding teams in 1979.
The Murray State campus is four hours southwest of here, and the Racers had a large number of fans in the arena. But the Murray fans sat nervously through the first half as their team struggled for offense.
This was a midmajor matchup in every sense because of the number of juniors and seniors in the starting lineups (five seniors, five juniors).
The other midmajor characteristic was that neither team had a true post player. Colorado State tried to play backdoor basketball against Murray State's aggressive man-to-man defense while Murray spread the floor, fed the ball inside and then waited for the ball to be passed back out.