No. 19 Murray State rallies to preserve perfect OVC season
CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (AP) — Justice Hill scored nine straight points in the final three minutes, and No. 19 Murray State beat Southeast Missouri 70-68 on Saturday to cap a perfect Ohio Valley Conference regular season.
Murray State is the sixth team in OVC history to go undefeated in conference play. It is the first to go 18-0, with the conference expanded its league schedule by two games this season. The Racers were also the last OVC team to go unbeaten in conference play during the 2014-15 season.
This season’s 18-game winning streak came entirely in conference play after a 71-58 loss to then-No. 12 Auburn on Dec. 22. The Racers’ other loss came against East Tennessee State, 66-58 on Nov. 22.
KJ Williams had 23 points and eight rebounds for Murray State (28-2, 18-0), and Trae Hannibal scored a career-high 20 points. Tevin Brown had 15, and Hill finished with 11.
Manny Patterson, a second-year transfer from Green Bay, scored each of his 12 points in the first half, helping Southeast Missouri (13-17, 8-9) to a 37-32 lead.
The Racers had to overcome a 12-point deficit in the final 6 1/2 minutes. They got a lift from a six-point possession triggered by a flagrant foul on Nana Akenten away from the ball as Williams was scoring with just over three minutes remaining.
DJ Burns made 1 of 2 free throws resulting from the foul and Hill hit a 3-pointer to get within a point. A turnover then turned into fast-break basket for Hill and Murray State had its first lead since midway through the first half.
Hill added a 3-pointer and free throw in the final minute and Hannibal made another free throw for a five-point edge with 15.3 seconds left. Eric Reed Jr. hit a 3 to cut the lead to two and, after a missed Hill free throw, Chris Harris missed a running shot from just inside midcourt as the game ended.
Murray has won 10 straight in the series, including a 106-81 win on Dec. 30.
As the top seed, Murray State receives a double-bye into Friday’s semifinals of the OVC tournament, which runs Wednesday through Saturday in Evansville, Indiana.
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