EVANSVILLE, Ind. (AP) — KJ Williams had 29 points and 10 rebounds and No. 22 Murray State advanced to the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament championship, beating Southeast Missouri State 88-74 on Friday night for its 19th straight victory.
Murray State (29-2) will play the Morehead State in the title game Saturday night. Morehead State beat Belmont 53-51 in the second semifinal.
The Racers sped to a 17-1 lead, with Nana Akenten hitting a 3-pointer 4:32 into the game for Southeast Missouri State's first basket.
“It was huge, huge,” Racers coach Matt McMahon said about the fast start. “Our guys were locked in. KJ got us started, and then Tevin started rolling. I think the two of them had 38 in the first half. They were incredible. You could tell they’ve played in this game before, and in big games.”
Tevin Brown added 26 points for Murray State.
“I mean, I feel like the way we prepared this week — getting up game shots, and just going through everything game speed throughout the week — really helped with that,” Brown said.
DQ Nicholas led the Redhawks (14-18) with 20 points.
Murray State shot 65.5% from the field in the first half, with Brown going 8 of 10 in the half.
“They wear down on teams,” Southeast Missouri State guard Eric Reed Jr. said. “I think after awhile, the pressure that they apply just from the tip is a challenge. And that’s what makes them a very good team. I tip my hat off to them. They’re a very good team.”
Murray State: The Racers, metrically, had a position locked up in the NCAA Tournament. However, a berth to the conference title game should quiet any questions — regardless of the outcome.
Southeast Missouri: The Redhawks should return more than 80% of their starting scoring, in a conference that’ll look drastically different with the Racers, Belmont and Austin Peay leaving — and Southern Indiana, Lindenwood and Arkansas-Little Rock entering.