MURRAY — Murray State has brought another basketball championship trophy home to Kentucky.
Joining 2012 and 2013 NCAA champions Kentucky and Louisville, the Racers won the CIT title Thursday night with a 65-57 victory over Yale. Murray State's triumph in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament comes two years after it won the Ohio Valley Conference championship, advanced to the NCAA Tournament and upset Colorado State before losing to Marquette.
Murray State has been on a good run.
After losing high-scoring guard Isaiah Canaan, the Racers advanced to the OVC semifinals before losing to eventual champion Eastern Kentucky. But Murray State (23-11) rebounded to win five straight in the CIT.
While most of the state is focused on the Kentucky Wildcats in this weekend's Final Four, the Racers are celebrating a title of their own.
"There are only four teams that are going to win a tournament championship this spring; we're one of them and blessed to do so," Murray State Coach Steve Prohm said. "We'll take a little bit of time away and get back at it in a couple of weeks."
The Racers have averaged 25 wins under Prohm, who served the previous five years as an assistant before taking over for Billy Kennedy before the 2011-12 season.
Despite losing 2,000-point scorer Canaan and returning just one senior in guard Dexter Fields, the Racers were picked as OVC West Division co-favorites. They finished second but caught fire in the CIT with an offense that averaged 80 points per game.
Freshman Cameron Payne picked up where Canaan left off, leading the Racers with 19.8 points per contest entering the final, where he scored 24 and Jarvis Williams added 16.
Javier Duran had 18 points for Yale (19-14).
Though the CIT title isn't as prestigious as an NCAA or NIT trophy, Murray State takes a lot of pride in winning it. Considering the Racers only lose Fields, he believes they can continue their successful run.
"This feels great," said guard Dexter Fields, the team's lone senior. "Watching these guys grow from November to now, it's been exciting to watch. I'm just excited to watch these guys next year. They came out here and fought their tails off every day in this tournament."