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January 8, 2009
"We'd rather win ugly than play good and lose, we're not complaining but we have to get better."
But the Blue Raiders will gladly take the W.
Demetrius Green's driving basket with 2.4 seconds remaining broke a 57-57 tie and gave MT a win on a night when the Owls dictated almost the entire game.
The Blue Raiders trailed by as many as nine in the second half and had numerous runs at the lead pushed back by a game FAU team.
When it mattered most though, MT got it done, scoring on its last two possessions and getting just enough late stops to stay in position to win.
The game was shaping up as a very frustrating one for much of the night as the Blue Raiders couldn't seem to string together enough quality possessions on both ends to take the lead. Finally with 3:38 remaining in the second half, MT made a key defensive play and turned it into immediate points to the tie the game. Trailing 51-48 following a missed 3-pointer by Yates, the Blue Raiders went to a full court press after a foul was called on Kanaskie under the basket. Demetrius Green stole the inbounds pass and made a quick pass to Kanaskie, who swished a 3-pointer to knot the game at 51. Even though FAU hit a pair of free throws on its next possession, the steal and 3-pointer signaled that the Blue Raiders had the mettle to scratch out a tough win. MT took the lead at the 2:14 mark and then didn't trail again.
G Kevin Kanaskie: Kanaskie never left the floor and he made key plays in the second half to help will his team to victory. He led the team in assists and steals and broke MT's sustained outside shooting slump with a couple of huge 3-pointers in the final 10 minutes.
F Desmond Yates: Though not his best game, Yates still reached 20 points while also pulling down five huge offensive rebounds that led directly to some second chance points. Yates struggled to get prime looks around the goal, but he made enough big plays to get MT over the hump.
F Montarrio Haddock-Haddock has blossomed in his role as sixth man and Davis turned to him throughout the game to provide a spark off the bench. In 22 minutes, Haddock has 12 points and six rebounds. Haddock entered the game with 13:37 remaining and MT down by seven. By the time he fouled out with six seconds remaining, the Raiders had taken the lead.
Honorable Mention: Demetrius Green-For much of the night, Green played poorly on both ends. But in the final seconds, he made the winning play, which is what winners do.
Season Star Count
Yates (26) Kanaskie (15) Green (14) Haddock (9) Johnson (7) O'Neil (4) Allen (1) Avery (1)
FINDING A WAY
Every championship season has games like this one, when a game against an outmanned opponent ends up being an arduous struggle. MT head coach Kermit Davis had a feeling this was going to end up being just that type of game.
"I saw it coming a little bit. For a couple days of practice we were good but didn't have the edge we needed to," Davis said. "I'm extremely proud of the win ... a league win is a league win ... but we never got in any rhythm offensively except for the last eight or 10 minutes of the game."
MT seemingly couldn't buy a basket in the first half. The Blue Raiders shot just 31 percent in the first half and misfired on all five first half 3-point attempts.
One thing they did do was take care of the ball, which played a big role in getting the win. MT had 11 assists and just nine turnovers, easily topping FAU in both categories, which finished with just eight assists and 17 turnovers.
Because of the turnover discrepancy as well as an offensive rebounding advantage, the Blue Raiders attempted 13 more shots than the Owls. That allowed MT to win the game despite being outshot percentage wise from the floor and at the foul line.
EMBRACING HIS ROLE
Montarrio Haddock looks like a completely different player than he did when he stepped on the floor for preseason practice back in October. He is significantly lighter and significantly more consistent with his play.
Haddock has been a very valuable sixth man in MT's current six game winning streak and his play is certainly not going unnoticed by his head coach.
"He's deserving to start and we may lean that way on Saturday (against FIU)," Davis said. "Calvin didn't have his best two or three days in practice but I guess we're superstitious as coaches and Montarrio has been giving us a big lift off the bench, but right now Montarrio as far as rebounding and scoring for minutes played is maybe our most productive player."
Jan. 10: Middle Tennessee vs. Florida International, 7:30 p.m.