From the moment the NCAA Tournament field was announced, the first-round matchup between the No. 12-seed Murray State Racers and the No. 5-seed Marquette Golden Eagles has been considered a must-watch game, almost entirely because of All-American point guards Ja Morant and Markus Howard.
With all due respect to Howard, Thursday was all about Morant. The Murray State sophomore didn’t get as much exposure as a typical All-American because the Racers play in the Ohio Valley Conference. Instead, most had to follow him through Twitter videos and SportsCenter highlights.
Now everyone knows what he can do. Morant racked up 10 points, eight assists and four rebounds in the first half alone, and the guard was even better after halftime. Just take a look at some of the highlights he put together in Hartford, Connecticut:
Howard was great, too, and led all players with 13 points in the first half, but Morant proved why he’ll probably be a top-five pick in the NBA draft in June.
The dunks get a lot of attention, but Morant notched the first triple-double in a Tourney game since Draymond Green did it for the Michigan State Spartans in 2012. The guard led the country with 10.0 assists per game this season to go along with his consistently massive scoring totals.
He had his usual dunks and alley-oops, and even mixed in pull-up three pointers and crazy layups. Morant is such a perfect fit in the modern NBA, especially considering how insistent he is to constantly push the ball in transition.
America was ready to fall in love with Morant in March Madness. He didn’t wait long to captivate the entire nation with 17 points, 16 assists and 11 rebounds on 5-of-9 shooting in an 83-64 rout.
Murray State is on the brink of a Cinderella run. Now the Racers will get a shot at the No. 4-seed Florida State Seminoles on Saturday.