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Murray State wins OVC title

Mar 4, 2012 - 12:28 AM Nashville, TN (Sports Network) - Jewuan Long's layup with four seconds left lifted No. 12 Murray State to its 15th OVC Tournament title with a thrilling 54-52 win over Tennessee State.

Robert Covington's fadeaway three-pointer at the buzzer from the right wing was too strong.

Earlier this season, Tennessee State thwarted the Racers' hopes of a perfect season by handing them their only loss of the year on February 9. Murray State won the rematch on February 23 by 18 points.

OVC Player of the Year Isaiah Canaan scored 14 points for Murray State (30-1), but was just 4-of-13 from the floor and 1-of-6 from beyond the arc. Donte Poole added 14 points for the Racers, who will be making their 15th NCAA Tournament appearance.

"If you really look at our body of work, you can make an argument for a two- seed," Murray State head coach Steve Prohm said of the Racers' potential seed in the NCAA Tournament. "Our non-conference RPI is a two. We haven't lost a non-conference game. We haven't lost a road game all season. We have three top-35 RPI wins. When you factor all that into the equation and then factor in that we're 30-1, you have to say, 'Wow'. We're not 30-1 by mistake.

Do I think we're going to get a two-seed? Probably not. A four, five or six if I'm a betting man. My biggest concern is proximity. I want Nashville or Louisville, somewhere our fans (can) go come see our guys."

Covington, an All-OVC First Team member, struggled with foul trouble but still led the Tigers (20-12) with 14 points.

Covington picked up his fourth foul with 14:47 left in the game as Tennessee State held a 38-31 lead. With Covington on the bench for the next 6:29, the Racers used a 12-2 run to take a 43-40 advantage. Long and Canaan each nailed a trey during the spurt.

"Robert is really integral to what we do and who we are. He got in foul trouble. His fourth one was the one that bothered me. He was a little off where he was supposed to be," Tennessee State head coach John Cooper said.

Covington returned with 8:18 left and the Tigers proceeded to reel off the next 10 points, taking a 50-43 lead with 5:31 to play. M.J. Rhett started the surge with a layup and capped it with a jumper.

The valiant Racers, though, outscored Tennessee State 11-2 the rest of the way.

Poole's trey and jumper on back-to-back possessions made it 50-48, before Rhett's baseline dunk increased the Tigers' lead to four with 3:46 left.

Ivan Aska's putback and two Ed Daniel free throws tied the contest at 52 with 1:01 remaining.

Patrick Miller turned the ball over on Tennessee State's ensuing possession with 30 seconds left, setting up Long for the go-ahead basket.

Long received a Canaan pass in the left corner and dribbled along the baseline before he jumpstopped and banked in his floater.

"The last five minutes were about toughness, defense and character. We never lost our composure," Prohm said.

In a back-and-forth first half where neither squad led by more than four points, the Racers took a 29-27 lead into the locker room.

The Tigers, though, came out hot to start the second stanza. Covington scored five points during a 9-2 flurry as Tennessee State took its largest lead of 38-31.

Tennessee State did a stupendous job of defending the perimeter against Murray State. The Racers, who came in shooting 48 percent from three-point range, were just 4-of-18.

Murray State, though, scored 15 points off of 18 Tennessee State turnovers.

Game Notes

Murray State last appeared in the 2010 NCAA Tournament when it upset fourth- seeded Vanderbilt 66-65 in the first round before falling to fifth-seeded Butler, 54-52, in the second round...The Racers lead the all-time series with the Tigers, 48-16...With its win against Morehead State in Friday's semifinals, Tennessee State reached the 20-win plateau for the first time since the 1978-79 season.