San Francisco's final 3-point attempt could have tied a game in which the Dons never held a lead, but when Angelo Caloiaro's shot clanged off the left side of the rim at the Sullivan Arena on Friday, Murray State's 70-67 semifinal win at the Carrs/Safeway Great Alaska Shootout was complete.
The win earned the Racers (6-0) a spot in today's championship game, where they will face the winner of Friday's late semifinal between New Mexico State and Southern Mississipi.
"We're very excited to be in the championship game," Murray State coach Steve Prohm said. "I'm really proud of our seniors, proud of their efforts. Our guys played too hard to give it away at the end."
The Racers led 30-19 at halftime, but flirted with disaster as the second half wound down, allowing San Francisco (5-2) to creep within three points. A jump shot from San Francisco's Michael Williams cut the lead to 58-55 with 2:20 remaining.
The Dons' defense nearly provided an opportunity to cut the lead further, but Murray State's Ivan Aska, a 6-foot-7 senior, made a about a 30-foot 3-pointer as the shot-clock approached zero, pushing the lead back to 61-55 with 1:34 to play.
"We play great defense and force their big man into a shot with a hand in his face, I can live with that shot," Walters said.
San Francisco didn't seem phased by Aska's bomb. The Dons came right back with an old-fashioned three-point play from Cody Doolin, who scored on a drive to right side of the rim and was fouled. His subsequent free-throw cut the lead back to three points, and then a quick steal by San Francisco's Angelo Caloiaro set up a layup for Rashad Green to cut the lead 61-60.
"It was a close game," Green said. "I felt like we could win it."
Green, who led San Francisco with 23 points, was a force over the game's closing minutes. After failing to reach the free throw line in the first half, his aggressive drives to the rim near the end of the game helped him finish 8 of 10 from the foul line.
"He's one of the most competitive guys I've coached," Walters said.
In the end it was free throws that sealed the win for Murray State, Jewuan Long went 4 for 4 from the foul line over the final 11 seconds to maintain the Racers' lead.
"We are always working on our free throws," Murray State's Donte Poole said. "Everybody made their free throws down the stretch to help us win."
Poole was almost single handedly responsible for the Racers' early lead. He made four of the Racers' first six field goals, all four shots coming from beyond the arc. Though contained by San Francisco in the second half, Poole still finished with a team-high 22 points, followed by Isaiah Canaan's 21 points.
For a while it appeared Poole and Canaan were the only Racers capable of scoring as they repeatedly found open jump shots and turned out to be the only Racers to score in the first 22 minutes of play. Pool finished with 16 first-half points, and Canaan nailed three 3-pointers on his way to 14 first-half points.
"We should have been able to stop that," Walters said. "I won't fault our effort. In the second half, we fought really hard."
Reach Jeremy Peters at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4335.
MURRAY STATE (70) -- Daniel 0-1 0-0 0; Poole 6-9 6-7 22; Aska 4-8 1-2 10; Canaan 7-13 3-4 21; Long 3-5 4-4 12; Wilson 0-4 0-0 0; Mushatt 0-0 0-0 0; Jackson 0-1 2-2 2; Garrett 0-1 3-4 3. Totals 20-42 19-23 70.
SAN FRANCISCO (67) -- Blackwell 3-4 0-0 6; Caloiaro 1-7 3-4 6; Williams 2-9 5-6 10; Green 7-10 8-10 23; Doolin 8-11 1-1 18; O'Connor 0-0 0-0 0; Johnson 0-0 0-0 0; Raffington 0-1 0-0 0; Dickerson 2-3 0-1 4. Totals 23-34 17-22 67.
MURRAY STATE 30 40 - 70
SAN FRANCISCO 19 48 - 67
3-point goals -- Murray State 11-19 (Poole 4-6, Aska 1-1, Canaan 4-7, Long 2-2, Wilson 0-2, Jackson 0-1. San Francisco 4-16 (Caloiaro 1-4, Williams 1-7, Green 1-2, Doolin 1-2, Dickerson 0-1). Total fouls -- Murray State 17, San Francisco 22. Fouled out -- San Francisco (Blackwell). Rebounds -- Murray State 20 (Canaan 7), San Francisco 25 (Doolin 5). Assists -- Murray State 12 (Long 5), San Francisco 15 (Doolin 5). Turnovers -- Murray State 14 (Canaan 4), San Francisco 15 (Green 4). Steals -- Murray State 6, San Francisco 8 (Caloiaro, O'Connor, 2). Blocks -- Murray State 3 (Long 2), San Francisco 0. Officials -- Cota, McClellan, McNew.