"All the credit needs to go to how well North Texas has played the last three to four weeks and how well they played today."
- Middle Tennessee head coach Kermit Davis
A once promising season came to a disappointing end for Middle Tennessee Sunday, as the Blue Raiders dropped an 88-79 decision to North Texas in the quarterfinals of the Sun Belt tournament in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
Josh White scored 27 points and distributed six assists to lead the Mean Green, which ended the Blue Raiders season at 18-14.
MT placed three players in double figures, but a woeful offensive start combined with second half defensive struggles spelled doom for the Raiders' hopes of advancing to the semifinals.
Eric Allen provided a spark off the bench for the Raiders with a key first half 3-point basket and plenty of active rebounds, but he failed to finish a layup off an offensive rebound with 4:18 remaining in the first half that would have cut the North Texas lead to four points. The Mean Green ripped off the rebound and pushed it up the floor for a 3-pointer by White, which upped the margin to nine points. That was the first time North Texas led by nine and the Mean Green maintained at least a seven point margin the rest of the way until the final minute.
G Eric AllenClick Here to view this Link.-Allen continued his late season emergence with another big outing. He hit three 3-pointers, scored 11 points, and grabbed eight rebounds without turning the ball over.
Honorable Mention: Nigel Johnson-In his final game as a Blue Raider, Johnson scored just three points, but it's impossible to ignore his line of eight assists and one turnover.
Season Star Count
RAIDERS BOW OUT TO BALANCED ATTACK
North Texas has been red hot to close the regular season and the Mean Green beautifully displayed why in the win over Middle Tennessee.
The balanced attack of guards Josh White and Dominique Johnson combined with a deep and imposing front court simply made MT play a game of pick your poison.
White and Johnson hit 12-of-18 shots between them while Tristan Thompson played a versatile game with 19 points and three assists.
Up front, the Mean Green rotated five players that were effective in several facets.
"Right now they have the best inside-outside (combination) in the league," MT head coach Kermit Davis said of North Texas. "Their guards are just terrific and they've got great depth at the guard. It seems like they have five, six guys."
A BITTER FAREWELL
This was not the ending to a career that Blue Raider seniors Nigel Johnson, Kevin Kanaskie, and Demetrius Green had envisioned, certainly not after the trio played so well together to nearly win the conference tournament last year.
But after the final horn sounded Sunday, their dreams of leaving as champions exited into the Arkansas evening.
The reality may have stung Desmond Yates even more, who has been by the seniors' side every year since he redshirted during the 05-06 season.
"It hurts," Yates said. "We all came in together, and I wanted it bad for myself, but I wanted it even more for (the seniors) because this was their last time to go around and get it. It hurts and I apologize, and I wish them all the best in the future."
Kanaskie, Johnson, and Green combined for just 17 points in their final game together, a performance not indicative of their career accomplishments but unfortunately for MT the latest in a string of perimeter struggles that signaled the eventual demise of this year's team.
"Nigel [Johnson] and Demetrius [Green], they're great guys, not bad to coach, they just didn't have the senior years we'd all hoped," Davis said. "They didn't make shots or do the things we'd all hoped they'd have done. And I hate that for those two guys, I hate it for our team."