Preview: Murray State at Illinois State




The Murray State Racers face a tough two-game road swing starting with a Saturday 3 p.m. game against the Illinois State Redbirds at Redbird Arena in Bloomington, Ill. Froggy 103 (WFGS 103.7 FM) airs every MSU game with "Voice of the Racers" Neal Bradley calling the action in his 26th season. Former MSU assistant coach Kenny Roth provides commentary. and has free online streaming audio. NBC Sports Chicago has the game on television and streaming video is available at

The Racers are 3-1 all-time against Illinois State including the last meeting a year ago in the 2016-17 season opener. MSU won that game on a 3-pointer from Jonathan Stark with two seconds remaining for a 73-70 win. MSU has visited Redbird Arena only once and that was also a close game in 2016 that Illinois State won 63-61. The Racers are 60-50 all-time against teams from the Missouri Valley, after defeating Southern Illinois at home (Nov. 25) by an 81-73 score.

After a week off to concentrate on fall semester final exams, the Racers are back in action for the first time since last Saturday (Dec. 2) when they defeated Florida A&M at home 80-59. The win pushed the Racers to 4-1 at home this season and it continued an early-season trend of improved defense. The Racers are 56th in the nation in holding opponents to 39.5 percent from the field. A year ago through six games, MSU was allowing 42.7 percent. MSU's defensive percentage of the 3-point shot has gone down from 36.9 percent to 26.5, also through six games compared to the same from last season.

It will be intriguing to see if MSU can keep their high-scoring ways going against a Redbird team that is 80th in the nation in holding opponents to 40.5 percent from the field. Against NCAA D-I teams, the Racers are scoring 77.0 points per game this season and shooting 48 percent from the field. The Redbirds played Wednesday at BYU and after trailing 39-17 at halftime, they outscored the Cougars 51-41 in the second half before falling 80-68.

Murray State is driven by Jonathan Stark and Terrell Miller who entered the season as the second-best returning scoring duo in NCAA D-I; they combined for 37.9 points per game in 2016-17. Through six games this season, they've hit opponents for 31.7 points per game. The Racers certainly have more balanced scoring this season with Shaq Buchanan and Ja Morant adding 11.8 and 10.8 points per game. Byron Hawkins is scoring 9.2 points per game. Through six games, the Racers have had five different leading scorers.

After the ISU game, the Racers head north again for a Tuesday game at Saint Louis. MSU returns home to the CFSB Center to host Marist (Dec. 16) and Auburn (Dec. 19).

The Racers are an eight point underdog according to the Massey Ratings.