COOKEVILLE, Tenn. -- Murray State was picked for second place in
the Ohio Valley Conference in the annual preseason coach's poll,
just a shade behind Eastern Illinois. The Lady Racers actually
received more first place votes than the Panthers, with eight of
the 14 cast. Two MSU players, Ashley Hayes and Amber Guffey, were
named to the preseason all-conference team, and Hayes was tabbed as
the Preseason Player of the Year.
In other words, the league has high expectations Murray State in 2008-09, and so far, the Lady Racers are living up to that billing.
As Murray State comes to town Saturday to challenge the Golden Eagles, the Lady Racers are tied with Eastern Illinois for first place in the league standings with 5-1 OVC records. The Lady Racers are 10-6 overall after a win Thursday night at Jacksonville State.
Tipoff is at 5:05 p.m. and doors to Eblen Center will open at 4 p.m.
Tech, meanwhile, was having a tougher time notching victories this season despite some stretches of outstanding play by coach Amy Brown's team. It's been those "other" stretches, when the team struggles to score, that has cost Tech.
The Golden Eagles found an answer Thursday night for a 63-56 victory over UT Martin, and come into the game with a 4-13 overall mark, and a 2-4 record in the league.
Saturday night's game, the 65th between the two programs, will be seen around the nation on ESPNU. Tech owns a commanding 54-10 lead in the all-time series, but three of those MSU wins have come in the last three games. MSU claimed an 80-79 win in overtime in Murray in the second meeting of the 2006-07 season, then the Lady Racers posted two wins last year, winning 67-55 at home and 80-70 in Eblen Center in Tech's season finale.
Murray State is the top-scoring team in the league, averaging 76 points per game. On the other end, the Lady Racers are allowing a league-high 69.9 points per game. They rank first in the conference in free throw percentage, second in field goal percentage and third in 3-point field goal percentage.
Individually, the top two scorers in the conference wear Lady Racer uniforms. Amber Guffey is scoring 20.7 points per contest, while Hayes is chipping in with 20.6 points per contest. Paige Guffey isn't far behind, ranking 10th in the OVC with 13.5 points per contest.
Hayes is third in the OVC in both rebounds and field goal percentage. Amber Guffey is second in assists, and those threesomes ranks first, second and third in free throw accuracy.
Senior Blair Bowens is Tech's scoring leader this season, averaging 13.8 points per game to rank 11th in the conference. Jasmine White's 9.5 points per game ranks 24th, while Meagan Lyons is 28th with 8.6 markers per contest. Bowens ranks third in the league in 3-pointers made per game, and sixth in 3-point shooting percentage.
White is eighth in rebounding, while Vivian Nwosu is sixth and White eighth in field goal percentage. Lyons is seventh in steals. Allison Price ranks fifth in the OVC in assists and sixth in assist-to-turnover ratio.
Lyons enters Saturday's contest with 990 points, needing 10 to become the 24th player in the porgram's history in the elite 1,000-Point Club.
For a team that didn't have anything to fight for, Tech sure put up a good fight in last year's final game, a 10-point loss to MSU.
After finding out before tipoff that they were mathematically eliminated from making the OVC tournament, the Golden Eagles fought from behind time and again before finally bowing out.
Tech stormed back from a double-digit deficit to outscore the Lady Racers 19-6 over a six-minute span to tie the game at 27-27 with 19 seconds remaining before halftime.
Down by nine early in the second half, Tech again pressured Murray State with a 9-3 run and got within three points, 43-40, on a layup by Price. Once again, MSU built its lead to eight and, once again the Golden Eagles kept up the fight, slicing the deficit to three on a 3-pointer by Blair Bowens.
Each team placed five players in double digits in scoring. Amber Guffey was the game's top point-producer with 18 points. Tech was led by Bowens with 16 points, while Kristina Tyler added 12, Lyons had 11, and both Marissa Hensley and Price added 10 points.
In the first meeting, Tyler scored a career-high 32 points, but the Racers were able to hold off a determined Tech squad with some timely 3-point shooting for the 12-point victory.
Tech had only 10 turnovers in a game that was well played on both sides.
Tyler had 15 at halftime and added 17 more in the second half for a career-best performance of 32 points. She also topped Tech with six rebounds, along with Lyons.
Haynes led Murray State with 27 points and seven rebounds, passing the 1,000-point mark in her career. Alaina Lee also reached double digits for the Lady Racers with 15 points.
For ticket information, please visit or call the Athletic Ticket Office in Eblen Center at (931) 372-3940.