Murray State Advances to Gulf Coast Showcase Finals with Win over Pepperdine

Damarcus Croaker and the Murray State Racers are adjusting to life without Cameron Payne and Steve Prohm just fine, and they are off to the Gulf Coast Showcase finals with a 59 - 55 win over Pepperdine.
Damarcus Croaker and the Murray State Racers are adjusting to life without Cameron Payne and Steve Prohm just fine, and they are off to the Gulf Coast Showcase finals with a 59 – 55 win over Pepperdine.

In season one without star guard Cameron Payne, forward Jarvis Williams, or former head coach Steve Prohm, the Murray State Racers have adjusted well to this point in 2015-16. They entered Tuesday’s action with a 3 – 1 record, and were looking to advance to the finals of the Gulf Coast Showcase.

Their opponent on Tuesday have played some strong basketball to open the season in their own right. Despite their 2 – 2 record, the Pepperdine Waves have an experienced roster that has the potential to contend in the West Coast Conference this season.

With a spot in the finals on the line, both the Racers and the Waves would put their best foot forward, but only one team could come away victorious.

Behind a strong second half comeback, the Murray State Racers knocked off the Pepperdine Waves, 59 – 55.

Both teams came ready to play in the first half. The Racers scored five quick points in the opening minute, and had stretched their lead to 10 – 4 before Jett Raines pulled the Waves back to within 4 before the first media timeout.

As the first half wore on, the Racers would try to put some separation between themselves and the Waves, taking a pair of 7-point leads. Pepperdine wasn’t going away easy, and they left themselves in a position to cut into the lead.

Both teams would go cold from the field for over two minutes, and that was the opening that the Waves needed to get back into the game. An 11 – 4 run for Pepperdine tied the game up at 24-all heading into the final minutes of the half.

As the half wore down, Pepperdine got a layup from Lamond Murray, Jr. with under 30 seconds left to send them into the break with the lead. After 20 minutes, the Waves held a slim 28 – 26 lead over the Racers.

The teams would trade baskets to open the second half before Murray State went cold from the field once again, this time for over four minutes. However, Pepperdine wasn’t able to take advantage of the drought, and let Murray State back into the game.

Back-to-back baskets from Jeffery Moss and Damarcus Croaker helped the Racers eliminate the Waves’ lead, and game them a three point lead of their own.

The flip-flop action would ensue from there, as both teams would trade leads as the second half wore down. The game would come down to the final 1:43, following a Pepperdine timeout.

Out of the break, the Racers got a basket from Chad Culbreath which tied the game at 55-all, and Murray State had all the momentum. On the Waves’ next possession, Jeremy Major got called for an offensive foul, and the Racers took advantage of the turnover and took a 57 – 55 lead on a jumper from Wayne Langston.

Two free throws in the last minute from Moss sealed the victory for the Racers, and they advanced to the finals of the Gulf Coast Showcase with a 59 – 55 victory over the Pepperdine Waves.

Inside Germain Arena in Estero, FL, the Racers were able to come away with the victory despite two of their top offensive players having off games. Gee McGhee was held to just 5 points, while Damarcus Croaker had just 2 points.

Wayne Langston scored a team-high 17 points, while Chad Culbreath scored 9 points off the bench to help lead the Racers to victory.

As for the Pepperdine Waves, a double-double performance from forward Stacy Davis (17 points, 11 rebounds) was not enough to lead his team to victory. Lamond Murray, Jr. scored 14 points, but nobody else for the Waves scored more than 6 points in the loss.

The Murray State Racers (4 – 1) are off to the championship showdown in the Gulf Coast Showcase. They will take on the winner of Weber State – Drake.

As for the Pepperdine Waves (2 – 3), they are on their way to the third-place battle at the Gulf Coast Showcase, and will take on the loser between the Wildcats and the Bulldogs.

– T.B.