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March 20, 2012

Rocky Topped - MT Advances to 3rd Round of NIT


















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The Middle Tennessee Blue Raider basketball team embarked on a late 15-0 run to overcome an eight point deficit to continue their historic season with an impressive victory over in-state foe Tennessee. Bruce Massey led all scorers with 20 points and snagged 10 rebounds to mark his first double-double en route to MT's 71-64 victory.

Middle Tennessee's victory earns the Blue Raiders another home game inside the historic Murphy Center on Wednesday night against Minnesota. Game time is slated for 6 p.m.

Game Breakdown:

Middle Tennessee characteristically opened the game with a measurable lead, holding a 13-5 advantage four minutes into the opening half. After trading baskets for about five minutes, the Blue Raiders maintained their advantage of eight at 19-11 after a Kerry Hammonds jumper at the 10:57 mark.

Middle Tennessee extended the lead to 23-11 minutes later after a Bruce Massey jump shot.

Then, as Middle Tennessee has been susceptible to doing, they lost grip of their sizable lead and allowed Tennessee back into the game.

A series of questionable calls landed the Blue Raiders in serious foul trouble, and Tennessee promptly went on a 14-2 run to knot the game up at 25 all after a Josh Richardson basket that got the behemoth crowd of orange to rise to their feet.

Middle Tennessee would respond with a run of their own. James Gallman, a Knoxville native, drained two huge three's that sparked an 11-4 Blue Raider run.

"Who I really thought gave us a big hand tonight was hometown product James Gallman," head coach Kermit Davis said in response to Gallman's play.

That momentum was short lived though, as a 5-0 run before halftime put the Vols right back in it. Middle Tennessee's lead of 12 with 08:37 left in the half was shrunk to just two at 36-34 going into the locker room.

Middle Tennessee's objective in the second half was to stay out of foul trouble and get back to sound, fundamental, Middle Tennessee-type basketball.

After trading baskets to open the second half, both teams found themselves knotted up at 45-45 four minutes into the second stanza. After a Middle Tennessee defensive lapse, Jarnell Stokes' dunk put Tennessee back in the lead. Soon after, Head Coach Kermit Davis was called for a technical foul after arguing a questionable JT Sulton travel call.

Middle Tennessee soon found themselves down 56-48 after a 11-3 Volunteer run, marking their largest lead of eight with 11:09 in the second stanza.

The Volunteers were able to maintain their lead with a 64-56 advantage with only 07:11 left in regulation.

It was at this point in the game, however, that the Blue Raiders took control and never looked back.

With 6:00 left to go, Bruce Massey took the initiative to keep the historic Blue Raider season alive.

After two hard penetrating drives towards the basket, Massey drew two consecutive fouls and capitalized on all four free throws, something this Blue Raider team has struggled with all year.

"I hit free throws early to start the game," Massey said after the game. "I could see the basket getting a little bit bigger. My teammates told me to stay in attack mode all game long but to be smart about it and pick my spots when to attack."

Then Marcos Knight got his hands dirty with a layup, which was followed by another Massey layup to take the lead at 65-64 with a minute and a half remaining and an NIT third-round birth on the line.

Following a defensive stop, Bruce Massey, once again, found himself inside the paint with another basket to extend the lead to three. Another stop on defense put UT on the ropes.

"We knew that we had to do what we do best and that's executing our offense and playing harder on defense," senior center LaRon Dendy said. "They were getting a lot of offensive rebounds and second chances. We knew that if we stopped them from getting second chances and executed our offense, then we would win the game. That's what happened."

With 0:26 left, Skylar McBee missed the game tying three point shot, and his next miss resulted in four consecutive Raymond Cintron free throws to enclose Middle Tennessee's late 15-0 come-from-behind push.

"It means a lot to me, and it means a lot to our staff," head coach Kermit Davis said. "I know it means a lot to our fan base. We understand how good Tennessee has been, and how good this team, this year has been in this building. It was difficult and maybe we will cherish this in a month. But it is a quick turn-around. When we get on that bus, it has to be behind us."

The Stat Sheet:

MT shot 46% from the field and held UT to just 38% shooting. From beyond the arc, the Blue Raiders outshot the Vols as well, netting 27% of their attempts while limiting the Vols to a dismal 8%. Surprisingly, MT also held the advantage from the free throw line, making 71% of their freebies compared to UT's 63% success rate.

MT out-rebounded UT 46-30, including a 12-9 advantage on the offensive glass.

Foul disparity in the first half was a 17-9 advantage for the Vols. For the game, the Blue Raiders were whistled for 24 fouls to the Vols 20.

Middle Tennessee turnover the ball over 17 times, while only forcing UT's hand into 10 turnovers.

Bruce Massey scored a game-high 20 points, despite only averaging 5 a contest. According to Kermit Davis, Bruce Massey only point guard in college basketball with more blocks and steals than offensive turnovers committed. Massey also led the Blue Raiders with 10 rebounds, four assists, three steals and the teams lone block.

Senior LaRon Dendy nearly posted a double-double with 10 points and nine rebounds while being limited with foul trouble for the entire contest.

Foul Trouble effects:

Shawn Jones and LaRon Dendy both were responsible for 3 personal fouls in the first half, along with 4 others sharing 2 personal fouls each.

JT Sulton played only 19 minutes due to foul trouble, despite averaging 25 minutes a game during the season.

Bruce Massey took the court for 33 minutes in response to his teammates foul troubles, well over his average of 27 minutes a game.

Marcos Knight was limited 19 minutes, despite also averaging 27 minutes a game.

Shawn Jones saw 24 minutes of play, above his average of 16 minutes a game, in response to Dendy and Sulton getting benched early on.

Torin Walker and freshman Jaquez Rozier also saw extended minutes due to the early foul troubles of the Blue Raiders.



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