West Regional matchup pits Racers against Golden EaglesMar 17, 2012 - 2:40 PM Louisville, KY (Sports Network) - For the second time in the last three years the Murray State Racers are into the third round of the NCAA Tournament and will take on the Marquette Golden Eagles today at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Kentucky.
Murray State, the sixth seed in the 74th annual tournament, picked up win number three in 17 games in the event with a convincing 58-41 thrashing of Colorado State on Thursday. The Racers have now put together an eight-game win streak since losing for the one and only time this season against Tennessee State in Ohio Valley Conference play back on Feb. 9 by a score of 72-68.
As for the third-seeded Golden Eagles, they rebounded well from their loss to Louisville during the Big East Conference Tournament last week with an 88-68 pounding of BYU two nights ago.
The Golden Eagles are appearing in their seventh straight NCAA Tournament and their 30th overall. Marquette, which won the national championship back in 1977 under the direction of legendary head coach Al McGuire, is one of nine programs from the Big East Conference to have made the cut for the 2012 edition of the tourney. With their victory on Thursday the Golden Eagles have a record of 37-30 in the event overall.
The only previous meeting between the teams took place during the opening round of the NCAA Tournament back in 1969, with the Golden Eagles securing an 82-62 victory.
The winner of this clash will advance to the round of 16 and will play on either March 22 or 23 against the survivor of the Florida/Norfolk State meeting in Phoenix.
Because the Racers shot just 34.6 percent from the field in the first half on Thursday, Colorado State was able to keep pace through the first 20 minutes of action. In the second period MSU again had some trouble shooting the ball, converting only 1-of-7 behind the three-point line and 12-of-22 at the charity stripe, but because the defense limited the Rams to just seven made field goals in 17 total points in the frame it was still rather easy for the Racers to pick up the win. Although he shot just 4-of-13 from the field and 1-of-6 behind the three-point line, Isaiah Canaan led the way with 15 points, while Donte Poole contributed another 13. Canaan and Poole are the one-two scoring punch that has kept the Racers on task, scoring 19.1 and 14.2 ppg, respectively. As someone who has knocked down 96-of-207 (.464) shots from three-point range to life the entire team to 40.3 percent accuracy on the outside, Canaan makes himself a tough matchup because he has also issued a team-best 118 assists at the same time.
Marquette led from the very start against a visibly tired Cougars' group on Thursday, steadily building on a lead that eventually reached 20 points. The Golden Eagles dominated in the paint, both in rebounding (48-34) and scoring (36-22) and a big reason for that was Jae Crowder who demonstrated why he was named the Big East Conference Player of the Year as he recorded game highs of 25 points and 16 rebounds, shooting 10-of-20 from the floor and 3-of-6 behind the three-point line. In addition, Crowder also handed out four assists and made four steals, while turning the ball over just one time in 35 minutes of play. Darius Johnson-Odom accounted for 20 points, five boards and four dishes, followed by reserves Davante Gardner and Todd Mayo with 15 and 10 points, respectively. A team which forces the action and has made it to the free-throw line close to 200 more times than the competition this season, the Golden Eagles follow the lead set by Johnson-Odom (18.5 ppg) and Crowder (17.6 ppg, 8.3 rpg), the latter showing great effort at both ends of the floor when you take into consideration his team-leading 82 steals as well.
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