MOREHEAD Ja Morant practically pleaded to go back into Thursday’s game at Morehead State.
Murray State’s sophomore guard was a point away from his second triple-double of the season and the third of his career. Coach Matt McMahon consented, Morant scored 11 points to go with 11 rebounds and 10 assists, and the Racers overwhelmed, overpowered and overran the Eagles, 71-52, at Ellis T. Johnson Arena.
"My coach, my teammates, they were, like, ‘Coach, you need a point, you need a point,’’ Morant said. "(McMahon) was like, ‘I’ll get you back in in a second.’ I went in, he ran a play just for me to score. I got fouled; I knocked down the free throws."
If you weren’t among the announced 6,071 fans who likely came to watch Morant, whom many think will be among the top five when the the NBA holds its draft June 20 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, you missed a lot.
You would have missed Murray State’s Darnell Cowart and Shaq Buchanan tally 11 points apiece.
You would have missed the Racers’ 18 total assists. (Morehead State had just eight.)
You would have forgotten about Murray State’s 24-0 first-half run.
"We (were) in all the right places and forcing some tough shots," Morant said.
And you could’ve gandered at one of America’s stingiest defenses – at least for a night. Murray State, ranked sixth in Division I in 3-point defense, allowed the Eagles just 4 for 29 for the game – and 0 for 12 in the first half.
"(Defense has) been an emphasis for us the last couple years," McMahon said. "We don’t have time to go through the coaching clinic of it, but it’s really an effort thing from our players and a buy-in from them."
The Eagles (11-19, 7-10 Ohio Valley Conference) were offensively anemic all evening – 4 for 32 in the first half (12.5 percent), 13 for 35 in the second and 17 of 67 (25.4 percent) for the evening.
Morehead State coach Preston Spradlin searched for reasons – and found few.
"That was just kinda remarkable," Spradlin said. "We’ve got good players, good shooters, good scorers. It just seemed like there was a lid on the basket."
To summarize, Thursday was a night where a 19-point win didn’t tell the whole story. The Racers (24-4, 15-2) led 40-14 at halftime and became the eighth team in the country to earn 10 double-digit wins on the road.
Morant nevertheless had a couple of memorable moments.
Like his first assist, in which he started down the lane, stopped, backed up and found Buchanan for the bucket.
And the pass that led to K.J. Williams’ thunderous dunk early in the second half.
It also didn’t help that Lamontray Harris, Morehead State’s leading scorer, did not dress because of a violation of team rules.
A.J. Hicks led Morehead State with 13 points, and James Baker added 10.
Morehead State 80, Murray State 71
Miranda Crockett led the Eagles with 21 points and padded her status as the third-highest scorer in women’s school history.
"It means a lot," Crockett said. "I’m truly blessed … I don’t keep track of points."
Morehead State (21-9, 12-5 OVC) took the lead for good, 47-45, on Aliyah Jeune’s bucket in the paint midway through the third quarter.
Tierra McGowan led the Eagles with 19 rebounds. Janika Griffith-Wall led the Racers (12-16, 8-9) with 29 points and nine boards.