Tech men’s basketball player Kevin Murphy scored a career-high and school-record 50 points Monday in a 98-80 win against Southern Illinois-Edwardsville. Murphy’s total was also a Hooper Eblen Center record.
That total was also the highest single-game output for any NCAA player in Division I this year.
Head coach Steve Payne said after the game that he didn’t know how many points his senior guard had until close to the end of the game, (Murphy came out after scoring his 50th point at the free-throw line with 1:38 left) but Payne said this kind of scoring output from Murphy didn’t surprise him.
“[Murphy] can score the basketball. We’ve seen him score the basketball,” Payne said. “There’s no lack of ability there. He’s talented.”
Murphy’s night was recognized by the national media when he was referenced on ESPN’s “Sportscenter” and “Pardon the Interruption,” and also on CBSSports.com.
“It’s a great visibility tool for our team, our school, potential recruits and Mid-major conferences,” Payne said. “I hope everyone gets behind him and the entire team.
“The key to having [that type of game] is shot selection, which the whole team is getting better at.”
Murphy, who was 16-21 from the field and 12-14 from the free-throw line, agreed with his coach’s words.
“They kept getting me the ball. It was just an in-game thing,” Murphy said, adding that he felt no indication pre-game that he was in for a big night. “[Guard Zac] Swansey and the rest of my team fed me.
“We were all moving without the ball and getting good shots.”
Swansey added a career-high 14 assists in the game. He also had only one turnover, which coach Payne said was as impressive as having 50 points.
“He’s the engine for our team, and he’s got such a good feel for the game,” Payne said of Swansey.
The Golden Eagles are 14-9 (6-4, OVC) this season and fourth in the conference going into Thursday night’s game against the Austin Peay Governors (9-15, 6-5 OVC). Coach Payne talked about what his team needs to do to become better as a unit.
“Fourth place isn’t a bad spot,” Payne said. “A free-throw or two here or a more consistent effort in the second half and we are [in an even better spot]. It’s all out there.
“We are getting better at getting a good shot every time.”
Payne added that it is more important to work on getting better now so the team can be playing its’ best basketball heading into the OVC tournament. The top-eight teams in the conference make the OVC tournament.
“Basketball is a tournament sport,” Payne said. “You want to be playing your best late in the year.”
Tech’s last regular season game of this year will be at home against OVC-leading and undefeated Murray State (21-0, 9-0 OVC). As of this week, Murray St. is the ninth ranked team in the country, according to the ESPN/USAToday poll.
“There is big time basketball happening on our campus,” Payne said. “This will be the first time a top-10 team comes to the Hoop. There were over 9,000 fans when we went down there, and we hope to have that many when they visit us.”
Payne said the recognition Murray St. is generating for the conference is excellent.
“Honestly, I wish it was us,” Payne said. “But it’s good to see our name, our brand out there.”
Murphy said he was looking forward to the rest of the season, but he wouldn’t look to “get hot.” Instead, he will continue to go through his regular routine just as he does before every game.
“I’m focused on winning an OVC Championship,” Murphy said, adding he wouldn’t mind being on the team that hands Murray St. their first loss.
“I hope they come in here undefeated.
“But, then again,” Murphy said, laughing, “if they lost a few games, I wouldn’t mind that either.”
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