Middle Tennessee was competitive for most of the game Friday night against Tennessee, but the Volunteers pulled away late to top the Blue Raiders 75-54 at Nashville's Sommet Center.
GoMiddle.com breaks down three keys of the game.
1) BALANCE NEEDED- MT senior forward Desmond Yates had experienced nothing but frustration in his past games against Tennessee. Yates by far had his best performance against the Vols on Friday, with 26 points on 11 of 19 shooting. But the production around Yates was lacking. Yates accounted for nearly half of MT's 54 points and the rest of the team hit just 9-of-36 from the field and was 1-of-14 from behind the 3-point line. For the Raiders to have a legitimate chance in the final minutes to upset the Vols, multiple players would have had to have good offensive nights. With Tennessee not having to worry about other scorers around Yates, the Vols were able to stifle the overall MT attack.
2) SEVERAL POSITIVES- There were a lot of good things to point to for the Raiders after the game. MT more than held its own on the boards and outscored Tennessee 14-9 in second chance points. The Raiders, who have had problems protecting the ball early in the season, only turned it over 12 times against a Tennessee defense that pressed for nearly the full game. MT generally had the game at the tempo it wanted, as Tennessee was only able to score six fast break points. Had coach Kermit Davis known beforehand that his team would own the offensive glass, protect the ball, and hold Tennessee star Tyler Smith to just three baskets, he probably would have gladly taken his chances at getting a win. Of course what those don't take into account is MT's chilly shooting performance. James Washington, Rod Emanuel, James Gallman, and Montarrio Haddock combined to hit just 4-of-26 shots.
3) VOLS GET PRODUCTION FROM UNEXPECTED SOURCES- Entering Friday's game, Tennessee's Bobby Maze, J.P. Prince, and Melvin Goins were collectively shooting just 39 percent from the floor. They found their stride against MT, and the balance they provided the Tennessee offense was one of the key differences in the game. The trio hit 14-of-23 shots, combined for 35 points. Tennessee's leading scorers entering the game were Scotty Hopson, Smith, Wayne Chism, and Cameron Tatum. That quartet combined for just 26 points on 45 percent shooting, about half of what their combined per game average was entering the came.