K.J. Riley posted the first double-double of his career but a basket with 0.6 remaining by Ja Morant gave Murray State a 66-64 victory over the University of Evansville men’s basketball team on Tuesday evening inside the CFSB Center.
“Our guys played well tonight, we played well enough to win the game. Give credit to Murray State; they made big plays down the stretch,” Aces head coach Walter McCarty said. “We grew up; our guys played their tails off. We wanted to control the pace. I told our guys to enjoy the moment.”
“It is fun watching these guys grow up. We are starting to become consistent; if we play this way every night, we will be a tough team to beat.”
Riley had 13 points and 11 rebounds on his way to the double-double. John Hall recorded 12 pionts while Marty Hill finished with 10. Dainius Chatkevicius scored nine points, all in the second half, while Noah Frederking had a nice game with eight. Murray State saw Ja Morant finish with 27 points, 10 assists and 8 rebounds on 10-of-25 shooting. Shaq Buchanan notched ten points.
John Hall helped the Aces tie it up at 2-2 to put UE on the board. Trailing 9-4, K.J. Riley was fouled on a 3-point attempt and drained all three free throws to cut the deficit to just a pair. Murray State used a Tevin Brown trey to cap off a 5-0 run that gave them a 14-7 lead, matching what would be their largest advantage of the half.
Hall struck again with a 3-pointer to end the run before a steal and runout by Marty Hill resulted in an and-one that cut the gap to one – 14-13. With just under nine minutes left in the half, the Aces took their first lead of the night on a Riley layup that made it a 17-16 game in favor of UE. After a Racer bucket, Jawaun Newton drained a triple that put Evansville up 20-18.
Murray State was able to rally back to retake the lead before pulling back out to a 7-point lead in the final 3:45 of the first stanza. With the score tied at 25-25, MSU finished the half on a 10-3 stretch to take a 35-28 lead into the half. Riley led all players with 12 points in the first 20 minutes.
Shea Feehan got his second basket of the day to open the second half, but another three by Brown pushed the lead to a game-high eight points for MSU – 38-30. With the Racers up 40-32, Marty Hill found his shot, scoring seven in a row for the Aces to get them back within one. The Aces hit 6 out of 7 shots over that span, but Murray State was able to retake the lead at 51-45.
With under seven minutes left, Noah Frederking helped UE go on a 13-0 as he scored seven in a row. Newton and Dainius Chatkevicius helped to cap it off as UE took a 58-51 lead with under five minutes remaining. Murray State never gave up and battled back. Ja Morant continued his stellar game, pushing the Racers back into a 61-61 tie with a minute on the clock.
MSU was able to retake the lead at 64-62 with under 30 ticks left. With 18 seconds remaining, John Hall hit the two biggest free throws of the night to tie it up, but a last-second bucket by Morant gave Murray State the 66-64 win.
UE finished with a 38-34 rebounding edge and shot 43.4% for the game. The defense held MSU to 39% shooting.
On Saturday, the Aces play host to Green Bay in a 4 p.m. game at the Ford Center.