The Byrd Cage

The Fury of Murray: A New Rivalry

In Game Posts on February 7, 2014 at 11:44 am

Photo borrowed from @jonathanshank

From the seats, this game had everything.  A convincing lead from the start by the home team, a swift return from the away team to even it up at half- and then a furious fight for victory at the end of the game all made for yet another riveting young chapter in the Belmont versus Murray State rivalry book.

From the seats, I don’t think I’ve heard the Curb Event Center that loud since the Lipscomb rivalry was, well, actually a rivalry.  Our student section was great, the band on point, and even that old person side that I sit on now stood up cheering for a large portion of the second half.

Murray State brought a great crowd as well- as I knew they would.  The liveliness of their fans during Murray runs was both infuriating (to a Belmont fan) and impressive for their corner of the Center.  Murray State head coach Steve Prohm was also equally infuriated it seemed at times, particularly when he practically handed Belmont the game toward the end of regulation.  But the Prohm antics could be a whole other post- and should be, frankly.

The fact is, if the short history of these games can tell us anything about the future, we have so much in store.  Let’s take a brief look at the early chapters.

Feb 7, 2013- Murray, KY

After a 17-7 run by the Bruins with minutes left, Ian Clark drains his patented “Ian” triple, tying the game with 58 seconds to go.  The Bruins, 10-0 in OVC play in their first year were not giving up yet.  A jet-fueled Murray State crowd, given a gut-punch by the OVC offensive/defensive player of the year, started to anxiously question the reality of running away with this one and momentarily quieted down.  But the Racers had a clutch future NBA talent on their side as well – and when the ball was inbounded to Isaiah Canaan, he proved he could play this game, too.  ‘Sip’s’ three-point answer to Ian Clark’s challenge put the racers up by three.  A Bruins turnover with 25 seconds left in the game and made free throws by Canaan ultimately pushed the game to its 79-74 conclusion, in favor of the home Racers.

March 9, 2013- Nashville, TN- Municipal Auditorium, OVC Championship 

I don’t really even need to recap this one, do I?  This game was an instant classic.  It ranks for me, and I’m sure for many of you, as one of the most exciting single sporting events I have ever witnessed.  I almost said “one of the most exciting sporting events I have been a part of”, because, well- I felt like I was an actual part of that.  How could you not?

Kerron Johnson cemented his legacy of clutch greatness in that game, my heart developed an arrhythmia, and enduring the intense match-up of Ian Clark and Isaiah Canaan all evening just about burned as many calories as alcohol that was in my system that night.  The memory of Kerron taking it to overtime- Kerron draining the jumper at the end of overtime for the win, the OVC Championship in our first year, and a berth to the NCAA Tournament will likely be the last thing my mind will lose in its old age.

The game became more than a game that night.  It became a statement.  And its echo reverberated into the new blood on both teams for the first Belmont home match and battle for the 1 seed in 2014.

February 7, 2014- Nashville, TN- Curb Event Center

If you want the nitty gritty, we always immediately suggest you go to Belmont’s recap here, because it is always really informative and a little more professional than the stuff you get here at the Cage- but nonetheless, last night’s game was one for the books as well.  Blake Jenkins’ 18 points in the first half kept us in it.  J.J. Mann’s 20-point second half helped inch us over the top for the “W”, but it wasn’t easy.  The ease of back-to-back clutch threes kept Murray sneaking around and left everyone on edge of their seats in the waning minutes.  A full-court press distracted an inbound play from the Bruins, and before you knew it, the refs were back checking the replay again like a post-season NFL game.  Yes, this could be a great place to complain about the officiating – but that is boring.

But it was horrendous.

Prohm thought so as well.  He thought the calls were so downright foolish he practically convulsed on the court, saliva spraying the recently BMX’ed C.E.C. like so many western spittoons with his disapproval.  Players even held him back he was so incensed at officials, doing his best impression of a moderately agitated Mark Ruffalo version of Bruce Banner … only to get a technical and not those large muscles and jorts he was probably banking on.

Listen, Prohm is a serious man.  He doesn’t have time for your video reviews, OVC officials.  I don’t either.  The game didn’t even end until I’m usually 30 minutes asleep in my bed.  But that’s off point.

And that is about as much as I’ll ever agree with Prohm.

Belmont got this one.  Taking the series to 2-1.  But it wasn’t easy.  And it won’t ever be easy if this rivalry plays itself out like it has since its inception. Doesnt this say it all?

Murray got in our heads, exploited weaknesses at the end of the game, and even frustrated one of the best head coaches in the game right now, Coach Rick Byrd.

On the way out of the game, I overheard our university President Bob Fisher tell Coach Byrd, “Great game!”

“I am the worst coach at getting the ball into play,” a seemingly dejected Coach Byrd replied.

“Did you hear that,” Dr. Fisher exclaimed to a friend in the crowd after the interaction,  “he said he’s the worst coach at getting the ball into play.”

“Always something with him- it’s never enough,” a voice echoed back from the crowd toward Fisher who replied,

“That’s what makes him great isn’t it?”

-Brett McReynolds


Belmont plays Austin Peay at 4 pm Saturday at the Curb Event Center.

  1. Student section was great last night. We – the collective of fans on both sides of the Curb – have forgotten what it feels like to be in a close game late. It sucks.

  2. ya it’s waaaay more fun to go up twenty with ten minutes left and then spend the rest of the game heckling the opposing team from the back row of the CEC… but then again… last night was pretty entertaining

  3. What a fantastic game last night. Congrats to Belmont. Both teams played extremely hard. If we don’t meet up again at the Muni, I think we’ll all be disappointed.
    That picture of CSP is an instant classic. I have NEVER seen him get that upset. As I watched his tirade unfold, I couldn’t help but think of George Brett and his reaction after being called out in the “Pine Tar” game. Honestly, I was happy to see coach lose his stuff. I was literally laughing (until the technical) over in section 105.
    The Racers just fell behind too much early in both the 1st and 2nd half. I was proud, however, of the way they battled back on both occasions. This team may be young, but they play with a great deal of heart. It’s weird how this rivalry has already solidified after only 3 games. Looking forward to the 4th edition on March 8th. Go Racers!

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