While it wasn't the result the Morehead State men's basketball program had hoped for, the Eagles fought to the finish in a physical battle with West Virginia in the NCAA Tournament first round at Lucas Oil Stadium Friday night.
The Mountaineers eventually pulled away in the end to hand the Eagles an 84-67 defeat. Morehead State, the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament champions, saw its season conclude at 23-8. The season included a plethora of accolades and memories, including the tourney title and the most conference wins in program history - all in a uncertain year where doing everything the right way led MSU to be one of only a small handful of teams to play 31 total games.
Junior guard DeVon Cooper (21) and junior guard Skyelar Potter (18) led the Eagles in scoring and combined to hit nine three-pointers as Morehead State was 10-of-19 from long range. Cooper also added four assists. Freshman forward Johni Broome nearly missed his 14th double-double with 10 points and a game-high nine rebounds to go along with three blocked shots.
Cooper finished his fourth season in the program and third playing a full year at 860 career points. Potter wrapped up the season with 61 three-pointers made, while Broome - named a Freshman All-American - concluded with a large array of awards and the MSU freshman record for rebounds (271) and blocked shots (56).
The game also likely marked the finale for senior forward James Baker. With the COVID year, he does have the option to return. If he should choose to begin his career past basketball though, Baker finished third in career blocked shots at Morehead State.
Morehead State fell behind early 17-6 at the 13:33 mark, but an 11-0 run in the next 3:02 sparked hope. With a giant contingent of MSU fans in the football stadium the Indianapolis Colts play in, MSU tied the game at 17.
The WVU lead jockeyed back and forth before MSU trailed 38-31 at the half.
Morehead State kept it within striking distance for the first seven minutes of the final half, trailing only 46-45 with 13:58 left. But, a swing of 11 points to the WVU side pushed the game back out to a double-digit deficit. a 62-53 score was as close as the Eagles got.
The Eagles won the rebound battle against the Big 12 Mountaineers, 30-26. MSU ended up out-rebounding 24 different opponents in 2020-21. Morehead State also shot 52 percent (26-of-50) for the night and finished the year with 12 games of 50 percent or better.
MSU had a tough task of stopping WVU's Miles McBride tonight. The guard hit 11 buckets and scored a game high 30 points.
Of note, MSU sophomore Jacob Rice entered the game late and is believed to be the first Johnson Central (Ky.) High School grad to ever appear in an NCAA Division I men's basketball tournament game.