***Click on the video above to watch Steve Andress' report, featuring reaction from Murray State players Donte Poole and Isaiah Cannan, along with Racers Head Coach Steve Prohm and Morehead State Head Coach Donnie Lyndall***
MOREHEAD, Ky. --- It's nights like this I enjoy being a sports reporter. Sure, BIG EAST, SEC, and B1G basketball with Louisville, Kentucky, and Indiana is pretty much as good as it gets during the season, but it's those Cinderella stories on the road to the NCAA Tournament that captivate even the casual college basketball fan.
Murray State has been that Cinderella this season and survived again at Morehead State Wednesday night 66-60 to move to 19-0 and remain one of the only two unbeaten teams left in America, with top-ranked Syracuse.
It was a game in the Ohio Valley Conference, so when I say 6,036 packed Johnson Arena, I mean it. Eagles forward Drew Kelly said it was definitely the best atmosphere Morehead has seen this season.
You can't even see Morehead from the exit off I-64. You'd be surprised if the town even has a population of 6,036. In fact, a quick Google search tells you it doesn't even hit the 6,000 mark. You gotta love Kentucky basketball.
The students were spread across two sections (by the way, it's a violation to wear your fraternity colors in place of home team blue and yellow, boys). One of the t-v timeout fan contests was a 2-on-2 game of flip cup on an old table(ask a college student). Awesome.
It was in this environment Murray State beat the Eagles on the road for the first time in four years, in the first game in which Morehead State hosted a ranked opponent since 1971 (before Johnson Arena was even built).
On the court, the Racers trailed by six at the half and by as many as nine in the 2nd but found a way with a late push, capped by Isaiah Cannaan's three-ball with 3:57 left to give Murray State the lead for good.
The referees tried their best to get in the way, with every touch foul called in the book. 48 total fouls were called - 27 on Morehead State, 21 on Murray State. It was evenly officiated, just overzealously.
The coaches and players may be mid-major, but the Racers are talking about going undefeated more like Kentucky or some other big-time program - one game at a time.
On paper though, it's definitely in play. 10 games left, including a non-conference BracketBuster opponent TBD, but every other team in the OVC is in the bottom half of the RPI in the NCAA.
Morehead State coach Donnie Lyndall was honest and frank after the game, maybe more so from a coach than I've heard in a long time, saying he doesn't think Murray State is as good as it was two years ago or even as good as Morehead State's team last year that knocked off Louisville in the NCAA Tournament. You have to appreciate that kind of candor, whether you agree with him or not.
Will the Racers reach the finish line? We'll see, but get ready to fill in 'Murray State' on your brackets on Selection Sunday. After what Butler and VCU have showed us...who knows?
Suffice it to say, our 10th stop this year on the WDRB Road Trip was well worth the trip.
2011-2012 WDRB Road Trip Stops so far (and plenty more to come, especially in February)...
-Hinkle Fieldhouse, Butler
-Madison Square Garden, New York
-Mohegan Sun Arena, Connecticut
-Conseco Fieldhouse, Indianapolis
-Thompson Boling Arena, Tennessee
-Bradley Center, Marquette
-Ellis T. Johnson Arena, Morehead St.