Murray’s Canaan too much for WKU in road loss

The Toppers move to 5-6 on the season with a 69-60 loss at Murray State on Saturday.

Zach Greenwell

MURRAY — WKU stayed within striking distance, hanging tight with Murray State through the first half Saturday night.

And then Racers guard Isaiah Canaan found his groove.

Canaan scored 19 points, including 16 in the second half, to push the Racers past WKU (5-6), 69-60, in CFSB Arena.

“We put ourselves in position to win and be right there,” Head Coach Ken McDonald said. “Now we’ve got to get over the hump, and over the hump today meant offensive rebounds and a few times where we lost Canaan. They did a good job executing, and we’ve got to finish.”

Canaan made 4-of-6 3-pointers in the second half, helping Murray State (7-4) stretch what was a two-point deficit for the Toppers at halftime.

“I don’t know what it is about the corner tonight, but those teammates found me open,” Canaan said. “Western Kentucky was losing me, and I was open, so I had to knock them down.”

The lapses in defense and 17 turnovers were what spoiled a decent offensive night for WKU. The Toppers shot 50 percent from the field, but they gave up 19 second-chance points to Murray and were out-rebounded, 30-27.

“We did some good things,” McDonald said. “I think guys stepped up and made plays from the bench, and everyone contributed, but we didn’t finish a lot of shots at the rim. We fouled a little bit too much.

“The effort was there, but … putbacks and those types of plays. I think that’s why they finished and won the game.”

The Racers came out of the gate strong, claiming their largest lead of the game at 20-11 with 11:56 left in the first half. That lead was actually provided by Canaan’s only 3-pointer of the first half.

But WKU answered with an 8-0 run, climbing back within one at 20-19 after a 3-pointer by freshman guard Brandon Peters at the 8:10 mark. Peters later tied the game at 21-21 with a layup.

Murray raced back out to an eight-point lead with just over four minutes left in the first half, but a 3-pointer by senior forward Sergio Kerusch cut WKU’s halftime deficit to 32-30.

Kerusch hit another 3 out of the break to put WKU up one, but Murray immediately answered with a basket and never trailed again.

After a layup by Peters made it 38-35 Murray, Canaan went on a tear. The sophomore scored the Racers’ next 13 points, giving them a 51-42 lead with 11:50 left.

“We had our chances,” Kerusch said. “But even though we’re proud of the effort, we’ve got to figure out how to get those four or six points and catch back up and hopefully end up with a win.”

The Toppers clawed back within 65-60 with 1:16 remaining, but Murray scored the final four points of the game to ice it.

Peters led the way for WKU with a career-high 16 points. Kerusch had 15 points and nine rebounds, and senior forward Juan Pattillo added 11 points and eight rebounds off the bench.

Canaan led all scorers with 19. Murray senior guard B.J. Jenkins had nine points and 10 assists.

The Racers shot 45.3 percent from the field and turned the ball over just seven times.

“I didn’t think we played that well,” Murray Head Coach Billy Kennedy said. “We shot it well from the perimeter and we didn’t turn the ball over, and when you don’t turn the ball over, good things can happen.”

WKU will try to recover from the loss with one of its biggest home games in many years, hosting Louisville at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

The Toppers begin Sun Belt play at Arkansas State after that, so Kerusch said they have to keep moving forward.

“It’s a learning experience,” he said. “We still have conference to go, and we’re just taking it one game at a time and getting better.”