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December 11, 2008
"I thought Boogie really jumped tonight. He's been bouncy in practice. In practices, he is scoring the ball easily, he's rebounding the ball better, his leadership is good."
Desmond Yates played his second straight outstanding game and finished with a career high 13 rebounds while pouring in 27 points on 13 made baskets.
Troy's dangerous 3-point shooting was kept in check by the Blue Raiders' stifling defense, which limited the Trojans to just 7 of 29 shooting from behind the arc and and forced them into 16 turnovers against only four assists.
The Blue Raiders put three players into double figures and got 36 combined minutes from Nigel Johnson and Theryn Hudson, who returned to action after missing time due to injuries.
Troy held a 15-14 lead nine minutes into the opening half when Kermit Davis summoned Hudson off the bench for his first action since playing against Tennessee. Over the course of the next five minutes, the Blue Raiders outscored the Trojans 17-0 to open a 31-15 lead, a run that culminated with a Dino Hair slam off an offensive rebound. Yates scored 11 of the 17 points as MT pulled away.
F Desmond Yates: Yates was dominant in all facets against Troy. He stayed out of foul trouble, played efficient offense, and put together the best rebounding performance of his career. It was only his fourth double digit rebounding game of his career and the type of perofmance that may cause a light to go off in his game that could lead to more consistent double-doubles.
G Kevin Kanaskie: Kanaskie had another great game distributing the ball with a game high seven assists and just two turnovers. He also rediscovered his outside shooting stroke by hitting 3 of 7 from long range. Kanaskie outshone Troy's Michael Vogler, who entered the game as the nation's leader in assists but had just two against the Blue Raiders.
G Nigel Johnson-Johnson's return was the perfect tonic for the Blue Raiders. He finished with seven points, eight rebounds, and four assists in just 23 minutes of action but the positive effect he had on his teammates was clear. Johnson is a difference maker on the floor and while he is still not 100 percent pain free, his return fixes a lot of what ailed MT in its loss to Houston last week.
Honorable Mention: Theryn Hudson-Hudson's first action since playing against Tennessee was another big lift for the Raiders. He only played 13 minutes but he pulled down six minutes in his limited action and certainly was a factor in Yates' ability to move to his natural small forward spot. Seeing Hudson, Yates, Johnson, Green, and Kanaskie on the floor together is a beautiful site for the MT coaching staff.
Season Star Count
Yates (12) Green (9) Kanaskie (7) Johnson (5) O'Neil (4) Haddock (3) Avery (1)
COMPENSATING FOR GREEN
Middle Tennessee rolled to the 28 point win despite not getting a single basket from Demetrius Green, arguably the team's top player through the early stages of the season.
Green missed all seven of his shot attempts but his teammates picked up the slack. Yates had one of his best games since arriving on campus while Kanaskie and Johnson combined for 13 assists and just three turnovers. Opposing coaches cite MT's depth as one of the main things that make the Blue Raiders a difficult matchup. Seeing the Raiders convincingly win a conference game while getting an unusually poor performance from a senior stalwart testifies to that observation.
TRICKLE DOWN EFFECT
Hudson and Johnson's return to action means a lot more than just adding their individual statistics back to the mix. Both players have significant trickle down effect through the rest of the roster. Hudson in the game allows Yates to guard smaller players and reduces his risk of foul trouble. Johnson handling the ball allows Kanaskie to expend more energy looking for open looks rather than handling pressure off the dribble. Johnson also brings out the best in MT's slashers because of his ability to push tempo. Troy is a team that likes to play fast, but the Blue Raiders beat the Trojans at their own game tonight. The game included more than 70 possessions, a high number that indicates a fast tempo, but the Blue Raiders could very comfortably play fast with Johnson and Kanaskie back on the floor together.
Davis has spent much of the last three years emphasizing repeatedly to Yates that the key to him becoming a superstar was improved rebounding. It looks like the lessons are sinking in. Yates had three offensive rebounds as part of his 13 rebound performance. Those three offensive boards helped MT score 14 second chance points and helped extend possessions in the second half when the Blue Raiders were controlling the clock with a big lead. Yates was the game's high rebounder, a fact Davis attributed to his star's recent practice efforts. If Yates becomes a relatively consistent double-double player, MT will be very difficult to beat.
OFF AND RUNNING
The Blue Raiders won their conference opener for the fifth time in seven seasons under Davis. MT will now have nearly three full weeks before returning to league play when it travels to North Texas on December 31st. The rest of the Sun Belt opens conference play next week.
Dec. 15: UT-Martin at Middle Tennessee, 7 p.m.