Racers will be tested by 9-0 Belmont
As Murray State and Belmont meet once again to determine who is the alpha male in the OVC, the host Racers will need to play one of – if not THE – best games of the year to prevail against a Belmont team that is cruising through conference play at 9-0.
More than just solid defense, efficient offense and tremendous individual efforts, the Racers will have display immense toughness – physical and mental.
Physically, the Racers have to be aggressive and active against the Bruins.Though Belmont is always more athletic than they get credit for, the Racers will have a slight athletic advantage. And they have to use it. Damarcus Croaker has to be a force at the rim. Jalen Dupree and Brion Sanchious have to be tenacious rebounders and defenders inside.
And, it wouldn’t hurt if leaders Jonathan Stark and Terrell Miller find their rhythm early (see Illinois State) and dominate.
As a whole, the Racers must also have great mental toughness as well tonight. More than any other team in the OVC, Belmont will challenge the Racers’ focus, resiliency, and heart.
Facing the Bruins forces teams to stay alert on every possession, every dribble and every pass. Racer players must not relax on defense or a Bruin will pop out for a wide-open 3 or cut backdoor for a simple layup. And, as all OVC teams have discovered over the years, Belmont is superb in late-game situations and will punish opponents who think they can coast to the finish line with a victory.
MSU must show resiliency tonight if they want to pull the upset, because Belmont will assuredly go on big runs throughout the game. Since the Bruins entered the league in 2012-13, the Racers have been down double digits on numerous occasions only to battle back and take a lead. Likewise, the Racers have jumped out to sizeable advantages only to see the Bruins claw back into the game. It’s important for MSU-Belmont rookies such as Miller and Stark to not panic and stay within the flow of the game. Ebbs and flows tend to even out in these matchups with the result in doubt until the final horn.
Tonight will be the Racers’ biggest mental test of the season. Passing it could lead to great things down the road.