Murray, KY – With their Tuesday win over SEMO, the Murray State Racer basketball team not only won the OVC championship, but also posted college basketball's longest current winning streak. The game marked their 16th consecutive win of the season. Tomorrow they battle Morgan State on their home court in ESPNU's bracket buster. Loyal Racer fans certainly have reason to be proud this season. Brock Etheridge is no exception. He's been a fan for 19 years and says he's only missed three or four games...ever. He's even got a Murray State tattoo. Rebecca Feldhaus has the story.
Wheel-Chair bound Etheridge sits courtside discussing the Racers' stellar season as thousands of fans file in for the game. Etheridge's unassuming style, brown hair and glasses might not distinguish him as a life time Racer fan, but his relationship with the team over the years does. He's grown close with coaches, including Mark Gottfried who now coaches at Alabama University.
"I became really good buddies with him, and when they were in their old arena, I actually got to sit on the bench with the team. I actually got to go in the locker room and meet really good players."
Etheridge has experienced ups and downs in the team's history and this year has proved to be a pleasant surprise for him.
"From the first few games I've seen, I didn't think we had the talent to be able to win every game in the OVC, I mean it's amazing."
Tonight, Freshman Isaiah Canaan gave fans another surprise. With less than five minutes remaining in the first half, after recovering what was almost a turnover near half court, Canaan was on his knees with seconds left on the shot clock. In a Hail Mary style loft, he banked the shot and added three points to the score board. Few fans stayed in their seat.
The crowd, just shy of 4000, was buzzing after half time. Retiree Steve Breck, formerly of Chicago, sat happily with his wife in the higher seats of the arena. Though he's only been a fan for seven years, Breck's loyalty has grown because of the exciting games and friendly fans. Breck has seen big name schools dominate the NCAA bracket. Because of the team's consistency, he thinks Murray deserves the same consideration, come March.
"You know in a year like this, it would be tragic to see them put down to something like number 16. They should at least be somewhere in the middle, you know, 6,7,8 in the seeding, I would hope."
"So you think they're that good?"
"Yes I do, I most certainly do."
By the end of the game, the racers had more than just one honor to celebrate. They picked up a win and the conference title, clinched the nation's current longest winning streak and received an award for highest team GPA in the OVC. While the proud players cut down the net, Head Coach Billy Kennedy expressed his pride.
"It's a heck of an accomplishment. I've never had a team get the academic award, so I've very proud of that also."
Faced with cameras and microphones, the team collapsed on the floor, holding each others hands, laughing and cheering. In their tight huddle they all grasped at small parts of the coveted trophy with pure joy on their faces. With a piece of the net hanging from his ear, Senior Tony Easley reminds racers of one thing.
"We gotta still play. So, it's sweet now, but we've got more business to take care of."
Easley's right. Racers play in ESPNU's bracket buster at 11am on Saturday and you can expect Etheridge to be in the front row, hoping the Racer's bring their A-game against Morgan State.
"I think they've got potential to go all the way."
"All the way to the OVC?"
"All the way to the final four of the NCAA."