Anderson didn't quit that Monday, but he did put the Racers through a rigorous practice emphasizing toughness: rebounding, taking charges and diving for loose balls. Murray State practiced the same way for the next two mornings—during one session two starters suffered cuts that required stitches. The Racers won 10 of their next 11 games, including Saturday's clincher for an NCAA berth. "This is as good a feeling as I've ever had in coaching," Anderson, 65, said following Saturday's win.
Murray State (19-12 overall, 12-6 in league play) exuded toughness in Saturday's final. Tennessee Tech came into the game as the best shooting team in the league (48.7%), but the Racers fought through screens and harassed the Golden Eagles into shooting 38.6% (26.7% from three-point range).
On offense the Racers were led by Burdine, a senior guard and the Ohio Valley's fourth-leading scorer (20.4 points a game), who had a game-high 24 points. In late January, Murray State adopted the phrase "40 minutes of guts" as its mantra ( Anderson taped signs bearing those words all over the locker room), so it was fitting that the game wasn't decided until Tennessee Tech's Damien Kinloch missed a shot at the buzzer. Minutes later Burdine stood court-side with a net hanging around his neck, still in disbelief that he and his teammates had risen from the ashes. "We proved that when you play hard and give it everything you have for 40 minutes," Burdine said, "there's just no way you can lose."