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December 2, 2008
"No matter who was out and who didn't play, we've got to muster up enough to win that game ... It was a game that absolutely we could have won, but give Houston credit."
MT played valiantly without the services of seniors Nigel Johnson, Theryn Hudson, and Eric Allen, who all were out of action due to various injuries.
Kevin Kanaskie's last second 3-point attempt hit off the side of the rim as the Blue Raiders fell to 2-3 on the season.
After a short Houston spurt had given the Cougars a one point lead, MT head coach Kermit Davis called a timeout with 14:07 remaining. The Blue Raiders came out of the timeout and went on a 7-0 run to take 50-44 lead, but Houston stormed back with a 9-0 run of its own that ultimately stretched into a 21-4 spurt over a more than six minute stretch. The Cougars got a trio of 3-pointers during the decisive run, two from Lewis who hit five from long range in the game.
F Desmond Yates: Yates hit just 9 of 23 from the field, but despite the disappointing percentage he had a strong performance that helped MT have a chance to win despite being without key weapons. Yates finished with 23 points and was also active on the glass with nine rebounds. He played the full 40 minutes without a single foul. The Blue Raiders would likely not have been able to absorb foul trouble from Yates in this game.
G Demetrius Green: Green had his third straight strong performance with a 17 point, seven rebound effort against the Cougars. He hit 8 of 16 from the floor and had two of MT's seven assists. Green was not very efficient driving the ball to the rim around Houston's interior defenders, but he made plays that gave the Blue Raiders chances to win and had three key offensive rebounds.
G Kevin Kanaskie-Kanaskie had a poor shooting effort (2 of 9) but he had four assists and just two turnovers while logging all 40 minutes without his usual sidekick, Nigel Johnson. Houston had forced at least 17 turnovers against each of its first five opponents but Kanaskie was the key reason why the Blue Raiders only turned it over nine times. Houston coach Tom Penders complimented Kanaskie after the game for being steady against normally tough Cougar pressure.
Honorable Mention: Calvin O'Neil-O'Neil had a team high four offensive rebounds and drew a pivotal second half charge that helped MT work its way back into the game following Houston's 21-4 run. O'Neil finished with five points and six boards and also recorded MT's only blocked shot.
Season Star Count
Green (8) Yates (7) Kanaskie (5) O'Neil (4) Johnson (4) Avery (1)
LOOKING FOR MORE
Kermit Davis was visibly disappointed after the game that his team fell just short of what would have been a very impressive win. He acknowledged that the Blue Raiders played very hard and particularly well in the final minutes to have a chance to win, but he emphasized he wants more from Kevin Kanaskie on the offensive end.
"Kanaskie has got to play better offensively, he's got to," Davis said. "He really hasn't done very much in these last three critical games. He's a preseason all league player and we've got to have him play like that. We've got to do a better job screening for him and getting him more open looks."
In the last three games, all Blue Raider losses, Kanaskie has hit just 7 of 27 shots overall and 4 of 17 from behind the 3-point line.
Johnson (knee), Hudson (foot), and Allen (knee) were all out of commission against Houston and the Blue Raiders clearly missed all of them. Johnson's speed in the open floor can't be replaced and he could have helped defensively against Houston's potent guards. Hudson's size around the basket could have helped even up the defensive mismatch around the goal that resulted in the Cougars blocking 12 shots. Allen could have helped with his instant offense potential while MT was looking for answers offensively during the 21-4 Houston run. Dropping the last three games has been plenty frustrating for Blue Raider fans, players, and coaches all, but the tantalizing thought of a fully healthy roster still remains. Johnson and Allen should be fine in pretty short order, but Hudson's status is a big lingering question mark. His foot has shown signs of promise on a couple of occasions only to have setbacks, including this most recent significant one.
SEARCHING FOR RHYTHM
After recording 63 assists their first three games, the Blue Raiders have sputtered to just seven assists in each of the last two games. Part of that can certainly be attributed to Johnson's absence against Houston as well a stiff level of competition, but the offense has overall been missing some rhythm against Vanderbilt and Houston. MT has assisted on just 14 of its 43 baskets in the last two games. The Raiders assisted on 63 of their 92 baskets in the first three games.
Dec. 7: Southern Illinois-Edwardsville at Middle Tennessee, 4:00 p.m.