"I'm just excited to see our team play with a ton of energy and we were great in transition."
- Middle Tennessee head coach Kermit Davis
Kevin Kanaskie forged his way into the record books and Middle Tennessee earned a resounding 77-54 win over ULM Saturday night at Murphy Center.
Kanaskie entered the game tied with Gerald Harris for the Blue Raiders' all time assists lead. It took him exactly 17 seconds to get the record breaker when he turned a steal at halfcourt into a transition pass to Desmond Yates, resulting in a thunderous slam.
That was just the start of a long night for the Warhawks, who turned the ball over 22 times and fell behind by as many as 23 points in the first half.
Eleven Blue Raiders scored in the game and the defense racked up 10 steals as ULM attempted 18 less shots than MT in the game.
The game was never in doubt but ULM did hold an early 3-2 lead after a deep 3-pointer by Lawrence Gilbert answered Yates' opening slam. The Blue Raiders dropped the hammer at that point, going on a 12-0 run to go up 14-3. ULM cut it to 14-8 with 14:01 left in the first half, but MT's lead was at least 10 points for the final 33 minutes of the game.
F Desmond YatesClick Here to view this Link.-Yates set a strong tone for the game on both ends of the floor. He got two dunks in the opening minutes and had two authoritative blocked shots against ULM's much larger Rudy Turner. Yates fought foul trouble but had 14 points on eight shots in just 15 minutes.
Honorable Mention: Nigel Johnson-Johnson didn't have a turnover and came within one point of being the fourth Blue Raider to reach double digits.
Season Star Count
KANASKIE PUNCHES HALL OF FAME TICKET
Kevin Kanaskie goes out of his way to avoid individual attention, which is why its only fitting that he now is MT's all time assists leader.
Just like an assist requires a passer and a scorer, Kanaskie refused to acknowledge the record without also acknowledging his teammates.
"It feels good," Kanaskie said in his typical calm manner. "Obviously having Boogie and Duna and Nigel makes it easy. They are the ones making hard plays. Most of the time they are open so I just get them the ball. It feels good."
The record breaker came before probably many in the arena realized the game had started. Kanaskie got a steal near midcourt, spotted Yates streaking for the basket and hit him for a dunk.
"What a great way to do it," Kermit Davis said of the record breaking play. "What a spectacular play to start the game ... That's a great accomplishment. He broke a guy's record (Gerald Harris) that means a lot to Middle Tennessee. In a way (Kevin and Gerald) are a lot alike, classy guys and team oriented."
Kanaskie has hooked up with Yates for more assists than anybody, which makes the record breaker even more fitting. It was a play that set the tone for the whole game and for Yates in particular, who played with great passion around the rim on both ends.
"I thought this was the best Boogie has played, dunking the ball and guarding," Kanaskie said. "I think he had a couple of blocks. He played well tonight."
Kanaskie makes it a habit to go out of his way to deflect any praise but his head coach always jumps at the chance to talk about his senior leader, especially on a night like Saturday that added a significant feather in Kanaskie's career cap.
"I'll say it right now and I don't say it about many guys, but he's going to be in the Hall of Fame," Davis said of Kanaskie. "I know that will make him embarrassed and blushed but when he is 35 or 45 he'll appreciate it because of just the solid career that he's had."
GREEN GETS IT BACK
As Middle Tennessee was sliding to three losses in four games with last week's loss to New Orleans, Demetrius Green was a player that Davis harped on for improvement. The senior standout responded in a big way during this week's two game homestand.
Green combined for 29 points, 12 rebounds, and eight assists in the two game sweep of Louisiana-Lafayette and ULM. His first career double-double performance against the Warhawks was his best effort of the season.
"It all started in practice," Green said of both his and the team's improved play. "We had three good practices and we've just got to keep on having them, keep playing well as a team, and just move on."
Green's rebounding might have been the most impressive aspect of his effort on Saturday. Two of his 11 boards came on the offensive glass and he made some very athletic rebounds on the defensive end to help start transition opportunities.
"His energy level was great and he was really good early," Davis said of Green. "We've been trying to talk to him about rebounding the ball because when he rebounds it he plays his tail off. I thought he was aggressive at the rim and he created some different things defensively for us in transition."
WELL DESERVED MINUTES
Walkons Lindal Yarbrough, K.C. Anuna, and John Hopson combined to play eight minutes in the closing moments of the game after the Blue Raiders had secured the win.
They took full advantage of it as both Yarbrough and Anuna scored baskets and Hopson was credited with an assist. Getting them in the game was a point of emphasis in the locker room at halftime, when MT was holding a 48-28 lead.
"I told our guys at halftime ... Lindal and John and K.C. deserve to play in this game," Davis said. "I said we've had about two at home they should have played in and we've just kind of melted down, so it was good that they got to play and all three played well.
"They mean so much to our practices you can't imagine. From an energy standpoint, enthusiasm, spirit. They are fantastic and our guys genuinely love to see them do good."
Feb. 5: Middle Tennessee at Denver, 8 p.m.