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Show Me Center, Cape Girardeau, Missouri Attendance: 2,934
No. 19 Murray State rallies to preserve perfect OVC season
CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (AP) Justice Hill scored nine straight points in the final three minutes, and No. 19 Murray State beat Southeast Missouri 70-68 on Saturday to cap a perfect Ohio Valley Conference regular season.
Murray State is the sixth team in OVC history to go undefeated in conference play. It is the first to go 18-0, with the conference expanded its league schedule by two games this season. The Racers were also the last OVC team to go unbeaten in conference play during the 2014-15 season.
This season's 18-game winning streak came entirely in conference play after a 71-58 loss to then-No. 12 Auburn on Dec. 22. The Racers' other loss came against East Tennessee State, 66-58 on Nov. 22.
KJ Williams had 23 points and eight rebounds for Murray State (28-2, 18-0), and Trae Hannibal scored a career-high 20 points. Tevin Brown had 15, and Hill finished with 11.
Manny Patterson, a second-year transfer from Green Bay, scored each of his 12 points in the first half, helping Southeast Missouri (13-17, 8-9) to a 37-32 lead.
The Racers had to overcome a 12-point deficit in the final 6 1/2 minutes. They got a lift from a six-point possession triggered by a flagrant foul on Nana Akenten away from the ball as Williams was scoring with just over three minutes remaining.
DJ Burns made 1 of 2 free throws resulting from the foul and Hill hit a 3-pointer to get within a point. A turnover then turned into fast-break basket for Hill and Murray State had its first lead since midway through the first half.
Hill added a 3-pointer and free throw in the final minute and Hannibal made another free throw for a five-point edge with 15.3 seconds left. Eric Reed Jr. hit a 3 to cut the lead to two and, after a missed Hill free throw, Chris Harris missed a running shot from just inside midcourt as the game ended.
Murray has won 10 straight in the series, including a 106-81 win on Dec. 30.
As the top seed, Murray State receives a double-bye into Friday's semifinals of the OVC tournament, which runs Wednesday through Saturday in Evansville, Indiana.
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Updated February 26, 2022