A look back at the Racers` historic win over NC State



A look back at the Racers` historic win over NC State
w w w. Racer Insider. c o m
March 13, 2013
A look back at the Racers’
historic win over NC State
By Will Aubrey
Racer Insider Senior Writer
Twenty-five years ago this month Murray State won its first game in the NCAA tournament.
Given a 14 seed, the Racers beat the 3 seed North Carolina State 78-75.
Going into the tournament no one gave Murray State much of a chance. And who could
blame them? The Racers had lost eight times during the regular season. They had lost to Pan
American of all things! And they struggled against Christian Brothers, beating the NAIA team by
a mere 13 points.
How were they supposed to beat a perennial power like North Carolina State? The Wolfpack
had stars like Vinny Del Negro, Charles Shackleford, Chris Corchiani, Chucky Brown, and Rodney Monroe - all of whom went on to play in the NBA.
And they had one of the most successful coaches in the country in Jim Valvano.
Everyone concurred, Murray State had no chance. They might as well not even make the trip
to Lincoln, Neb. for the first round game. Perhaps that's why when they did show up the Racers
found themselves staying in a dormitory at the University of Nebraska while all the other teams
were housed in nice hotels.
USA Today listed MSU's odds of winning the national championship at 250,000-1.
Fortunately, Murray State's head coach Steve Newton didn't buy the conventional wisdom.
And neither did his players.
“We can beat anybody when we play well, just like anybody can beat us when we don't.” Don
Mann told reporters before the game.
“To me it was just another game,” Jeff Martin said. “We knew we were playing a good team.
But we had played other good teams and beaten them. We nearly beat Memphis State at Mem-
Then-junior Jeff Martin cuts off North Caroliina State guard Rodney Monroe along the baseline
in the Racers’ NCAA Tournament first-round win in 1988.
phis. That told us we could play with anybody.”
Carl Sias felt the same way.
“We came into the game pretty upbeat,” he said. “We weren't intimidated by them. We're
basketball players just like they are. We wanted it as badly as they did.”
Racer fans weren't buying it either. A large contingent of them made the trip to cheer the team
“It was the most exciting trip,” former basketball secretary Cheryl Whittaker said with a grin.
“It was an absolutely wonderful experience. We actually had to drive to St. Louis in a snowstorm
to catch a plane to Nebraska.
“We had maybe 200 people from Murray at the game. All the usuals were there, Lindy Suiter
and his gang, all the families of the players and coaches. And we made it sound like we had twice
that many or more.”
The players may not have had butterflies. But play by play announcer Randy Herndon most
certainly did.
"I was nervous before the game because I didn't want to
sound like an idiot,” he recalled. “But it's hard to separate your
emotional ties to the team from your description of the action.
Of course you aren't supposed to be an objective voice. You're
the Voice of the Racers not a CBS announcer.
“And it's far more interesting to listen to an announcer who
lets his emotion show than one who doesn't. But I had to try to
keep myself somewhat in check.”
As the game got underway it appeared that perhaps the conventional wisdom had been correct after all. Late in the first half
N. C. State held a 32-24 advantage. Things looked bleak for the
But a quick rally tied the game at 32 with 4:06 left in the first
half. Then Newton put in a three guard lineup and told his team
to spread the floor. Mann broke the tie with a 3-pointer and by
halftime Murray State led 41-36.
“When we got the lead all the Nebraska fans started pulling
for Murray State,” Whittaker recalled. “So it was a really exciting atmosphere.
“Saundra Edwards was working in the athletic department
at the time and a Nebraska fan asked her where she could get a
Murray State t-shirt. So Saundra just took the shirt off her back
and gave it to her. Fortunately she had another shirt on underneath.”
The Racers led by as much as nine points in the second half
but the Wolfpack mounted a furious rally. With 19 seconds left
Murray State was clinging to a 75-73 advantage when Mann
stepped to the line for two free throws. He had missed the front
end of two earlier 1-and-1 attempts that might have iced the
“On an earlier rebound I had jammed my finger,” he explained afterward. “I wasn't getting my wrist into my shots. I
just decided to ignore the pain and put the ball through.”
And that's exactly what he did as he calmly swished both
free throws. N. C. State scored quickly and fouled Paul King
who stepped to the line with the Racers up 77-75 and just seven
seconds left.
“I just wanted to knock them down,” he said after the game.
“I didn't want to feel any pressure.”
He hit the first shot and missed the second but he didn't hang
his head.
“When I missed the second one I didn't even follow it for a
w w w. Racer Insider. c o m
March 13, 2013
“This proves
our guys can
play. Polls don't
say a whole lot.
That's why we
play the game.”
Steve Newton
MSU Head Coach
rebound,” King said. “I found Del Negro and tried to get on him.
I figured he'd be the one to take the shot.”
Del Negro pushed it up the sideline but King kept him from
getting a good look at the basket and his final shot rimmed out.
Martin led all scorers with 23 points while Mann had 16 and
Chris Ogden had 12. King and Sias each had nine points, Robert
McClatchey had six, and Linzie Foster had three. All of Murray's starters played more than 30 minutes. Mann never came
out, despite jamming his finger.
"It was pandemonium when Murray State won,” Herndon
recalled. “And honestly I had to choke back tears to talk through
it. They hadn't been there in so long and getting a win over Jimmy Valvano's team? He had become a coaching legend. I got to
record a pregame interview with him and I thought just doing
that was pretty cool."
“This proves our guys can play,” Newton said after the
game. “Polls don't say a whole lot. That's why we play the game.
“This was a dream. We wanted to win a game in the NCAA
tournament, We've been underdogs all year. The guys did a magnificent job on the defensive end and we were able to capitalize
with our quickness.”
“We knew we were going to win,” a jubilant King said. “The
odds were against us and we were the only ones who believed.”
Martin echoed King's comments.
“People are calling it a big upset but we knew we could do it
all along,” Martin said. “We knew if we just hung together when
things got tight we could do it.”
After the game, reporters suggested that the Wolfpack had
overlooked Murray State but Valvano insisted that wasn't the
“They are a fine basketball team,” he said. “Their game plan
was sound. Mann shot the ball farther and better than we expected. They got the lead and hung on.”
The Racers dropped a 61-58 decision to eventual national
champion Kansas in the second round. It was the closest game
the Jayhawks would have in their march to the championship.
But that's beside the point. In one shining moment the Racers had shocked the world. A quarter of a century later every
Racer fan who was alive then can tell you where he was on that
night. And the thrill of that victory is only a thought away.
Following a narrow second-round
loss to eventual national champion
Kansas, the Racer travel party was
welcomed home with a celebration
in Racer Arena.
509 North 12th Street
Murray, Kentucky
(270) 753-9194
and the
have a

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