College Basketball

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Murray State (18-11) at Missouri State (20-12)

The Sports Network

DATE & TIME: Wednesday, March 19th, 8:05 p.m. (et).

FACTS & STATS: Site: JQH Arena (11,000) -- Springfield, Missouri. Television: None. CIT Record: Murray State 0-0, Missouri State 4-0. Series Record: Missouri State leads, 2-1.

GAME NOTES: Champions of the 2010 Tournament, the Missouri State Bears are back in the event this year and will begin their quest for another title tonight versus Murray State in first-round action at JQH Arena.

Missouri State, which finished 2013-14 with a mark of 20-12, rattled off four straight wins in this event four years ago in order to bring home the trophy. The Missouri Valley Conference representative began that run in 2010 with a victory against Middle Tennessee, continued with a lopsided decision over Louisiana Tech and then led to an unlikely 67-61 decision against a Creighton program that was just getting used to the postseason.

The Bears capped their four-game run against Pacific with a 78-65 triumph, a team which could end up on the radar again this year, with the Tigers being part of the tournament field yet again.

New to this tourney, the Racers are appearing in the postseason in one form or another for the 23rd time in program history. Murray State has been a mainstay in the Ohio Valley Conference now for some time, coming out on top of the West Division of the league standings this season with a record of 13-3. The second seed in the OVC Tournament, the Racers were taken down by Eastern Kentucky in the semifinals of the event, 86-83, almost two weeks ago now.

According to Missouri State sources, the Bears own a 2-1 mark in the all-time series between the programs, posting an 89-76 victory in the most recent encounter during the NIT three years ago.

The winner of the meeting this time around will advance to the second round of the tournament against an opponent to be determined.

The Racers got off to a disappointing 2-5 start to the 2013-14 campaign, but a strong finish ensured the team a 27th consecutive season with a winning record. Cameron Payne deserved quite a bit of the credit as he was named the OVC Freshman of the Year and found a spot on the All-OVC First Team. Payne leads the program in scoring and assists with 16.2 ppg and 159 dishes, respectively, not to mention coming up with 45 steals to pace the squad in that department as well. However, while Payne was shooting just 39.5 percent from the floor, Jarvis Williams was picking up the slack with his stellar 63.4 percent accuracy, en route to 14.4 ppg as he was named All-OVC Second Team. Williams is also one of only a handful of players at the Division I level who can claim to be averaging a double-double with his 10.4 rpg. Adding some scoring punch is Jeffery Moss with another 13.4 ppg for a team putting up 77.5 ppg.

The Bears have had a very heavy schedule this season, one that has included nine opponents that are appearing in the postseason in one form or another. The team was an even 7-7 against those foes, which isn't earth shattering, nor is it disappointing. Helping Missouri State to break even was Jarmar Gulley who, during 18 conference games, scored in double figures in all but one of those outings. For his efforts, Gulley was named to the All-MVC Second Team, posting a team-best 14.4 ppg and also leading the Bears on the glass with 6.3 rpg. Unfortunately, after 32 games the Bears have only Gulley to show for active double-digit scorers, which is why the squad is down to 68.7 ppg. Marcus Marshall had been one of those reliable scorers early on, but his 14.3 ppg dried up once he went on the injured list.

With only Gulley as a true scoring threat that knows how to shoulder the load, the Bears are at a pretty big disadvantage here and could easily find themselves being one-and-done.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Murray State 76, Missouri State 66

03/19 10:35:48 ET

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IND 89
MEM 97
CHI 108
CLE 114
MIL 93
PHI 81
SAC 56
POR 52
PHO 38
SAN 47
LAL 38
LAC 44
CIN 38
MEM 33