Murray State’s Ja Morant records triple-double in win over Marquette

HARTFORD, Conn. — Murray State entered its NCAA Tournament first-round game with Marquette on Thursday as a slight underdog.

Point guard Ja Morant helped the Racers beat the odds.

With Morant recording the ninth triple-double in NCAA Tournament history, 12th-seeeded Murray State trounced fifth-seeded Marquette 83-64 in a West Region opener.

Morant finished with 17 points, 16 assists and 11 rebounds as the Ohio Valley Conference champions extended their winning streak to 12 games and earned a second-round meeting with fourth-seeded Florida State on Saturday.

“They’d be good without him,” Marquette head coach Steve Wojciechowski said of the Racers and Morant. “But with him, they’re pretty unique.”

With 4:36 left in the second half and Murray State (28-4) up by 20, Morant grabbed his 10th rebound, pulling it away from teammate KJ Williams to complete the triple-double.

“I was going for it. I called it and he still tried to get the rebound. I just snatched it and said, ‘It’s my ball,’” Morant said. “Normally, before the game, I tell him that every ball that goes toward the rim needs to be his. Just attack the glass. Sorry, I had to take that one from him.”

The last player to record a triple-double in the NCAA Tournament was Draymond Green for Michigan State in 2012 against LIU-Brooklyn.

“Ja deserves every bit of credit he gets and then some,” Murray State head coach Matt McMahon said, “but we have a very balanced team.”

Markus Howard finished with 26 points for the Golden Eagles (24-10).

Ralph D. Russo is an Associated Press writer.

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