GAME NOTES: The Murray State Racers and St. John's Red Storm put their perfect 2-0 records on the line when they meet in the second round of the Charleston Classic on Friday evening.
The winner of this contest will advance to the tournament final to play the winner of the Baylor/Colorado showdown.
St. John's squared off with the tournament's host and defeated the College of Charleston to improve to 2-0 on the young season. The Red Storm showed off superior ball-handling skills with only six turnovers in the contest. St. John's managed to hang on for a 77-74 win over Ray McCallum and the Detroit Titans in the 2012-13 season opener. SJU coach Steve Lavin missed a lot of last season as he recovered from prostate cancer. He returned to guide one of the youngest teams in college basketball, which clearly has a huge upside.
The Racers stayed perfect through two games by completing a 79-59 rout of Auburn in their first-round affair. Murray State drained 52.9 percent of its field goal attempts and limited Auburn to 33.3 percent. Murray State took a commanding 45-19 lead into halftime and never looked back. Steve Prohm is hopeful to repeat the success he found in his first season as a head coach when he guided MSU to a 31-2 overall record, the best start in school history, and a trip to the NCAA Tournament. Isaiah Canaan led the team through an in- season tourney last year by scoring 36 points in the championship game of the Great Alaska Shootout to propel the Racers past Southern Miss.
Lavin had well-documented issues with his star sophomore D'Angelo Harrison so much in the preseason that he did not play Harrison in the team's exhibition game and decided not to start him in the opener. Harrison heard the message loud and clear and responded by scoring a game-high 22 points, 13 of which were delivered in the final 8:24 to help SJU get past Detroit. The shooting guard clearly has natural ability and managed to score a game-high 21 points in Thursday's victory over the Cougars. Phil Greene IV has been solid as well early on, posting totals of 31 points and 10 assists in 78 minutes of combined action. SJU has a pair of solid forwards in Chris Obekpa and Amir Garrett. In the season opener versus Detroit, Obekpa broke the school-record with eight blocks in his collegiate debut, while Garrett posted his first career double- double with 15 points and 11 rebounds.
Despite playing in the unheralded Ohio Valley Conference program, Canaan has managed to make his name known in the college basketball world. The shifty guard handles the ball, passes it, and scores at will. Canaan netted a team- best 26 points in the recent win over Auburn. Senior forward Stacy Wilson tallied a team-high 21 points on 50 percent shooting from the field in the season opener before contributing 18 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the floor versus the Tigers. Ed Daniel has provided 23 points, 13 rebounds and two blocks in two games at the forward position. Freshman guard C.J. Ford could see significant time alongside Canaan to give opposing defenses a different look. UAB transfer Dexter Fields joined the program after netting 7.1 ppg for the Blazers in 2010-11. He has made only three of his 12 field goal attempts in MSUs first two games, but the high-energy guard has made plenty of plays as well.
While the Red Storm are playing at a very high level, Murray State is going to be very difficult to take down. The lack of depth on SJU's bench will be difficult to overcome for the Red Storm. Slowing down the Racers is going to be nearly impossible with Canaan engineering the offense.
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