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December 20, 2008
"It was a win we needed real bad."
Desmond Yates had 22 points and seven rebounds to lead the way, but it was a pair of big 3-pointers by Demetrius Green late in the game that sealed the Blue Raiders' win.
In a rugged battle, MT forced 20 Anteater turnovers and surrendered just 17 made baskets throughout the game.
The Blue Raiders held a four point lead at halftime and never surrendered their advantage, although UC-Irvine closed to within one point with 9:11 remaining.
When UC-Irvine used a 7-0 run to cut MT's lead to 44-43 with less than 10 minutes to play, the Blue Raiders looked like they might be on the ropes. Montarrio Haddock, Green, and Yates joined forces to push the Anteaters back as MT responded with its own 8-0 run to extend the lead back to 52-43. Haddock started the run with a jumper and Yates follwed with consecutive buckets, including one immediately following a Haddock steal. Green closed the run, which lasted a little more than three minutes, with a jumper of his own. UC-Irvine did fight back later to cut the lead to four, but the 8-0 Blue Raider spurt got MT over the hump.
F Desmond Yates: Yates played a complete game, figuratively and nearly literally. While logging 39 minutes, Yates his 11 of his 15 shots and also led the team in rebounding. He made key plays at timely junctions in the game.
F Montarrio Haddock: Haddock seems to be growing in confidence with each passing game. Against UC-Irvine, he missed just one of his five shots and scored 13 points in just 21 minutes. He was nearly perfect at the foul line and played the game without a turnover.
G Demetrius Green-Green hit perhaps the game's two biggest shots with a pair of 3-pointers in the final minutes to stick the dagger into the Anteaters. He scored 15 points and saved his best for last. He hadn't hit on any of his three previous long range attempts until those final two deep bombs.
Honorable Mention: Calvin O'Neil-O'Neil hit all six of his free throws and led the team in steals. He also blocked a shot.
Season Star Count
Yates (18) Green (13) Kanaskie (10) Haddock (8) Johnson (5) O'Neil (4) Avery (1)
The Blue Raiders played with a defensive edge Saturday. Despite surrendering 52 percent shooting in the first half, they still gave up just 26 points in each half and forced UC-Irvine into a very uncharacteristic 20 turnovers. Those turnovers led directly to 19 Blue Raider points which keyed the victory.
Seven players had at least 10 minutes of playing time and six of those recorded at least one steal. UC-Irvine hit just 32 percent from the floor in the second half and 20 percent from behind the 3-point line.
MONEY AT THE LINE
Free throws have been a thorn in MT's side on a few occasions this season but the Blue Raiders got it done at the charity stripe against the Anteaters. They hit 14 of 16 free tosses including a perfect 7 of 7 in the first half. MT hit 5 of 6 free throws in the final 1:04 to put the game away.
O'Neil and Nigel Johnson were both perfect at the line, while Haddock was perfect until missing his final attempt with less than a minute remaining.
WINNING WHILE COLD
The Blue Raiders shot 47 percent from the floor but were just 19 percent from beyond the 3-point line. They still managed to win because they didn't rely on outside shooting.
MT outscored UC-Irvine in the paint 22-10 despite allowing the Anteaters to get 14 second chance points off offensive rebounds.
Until Green's final 3-pointers that put the game away, MT had hit just one long range shot and that came from Kanaskie on MT's second possession.
Kermit Davis tried to present Eric Allen with some opportunities to find his stroke but he missed all five of his shot attempts including two from beyond the arc. Kanaskie, who appeared to find his range against Belmont Wednesday night, missed his final six 3-pointers after connecting on his first one. The senior hit just 2 of 9 shots overall.
Dec. 21: Middle Tennessee vs. Norfolk State, 5:35 p.m.