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January 24, 2009
UNO 69, MT 65: Inside the box
"We've got plenty of games to go and still have plenty of things out in front of us that are attainable."
The game opened ominously for the Blue Raiders when UNO's Justin Archie hit a 35-foot 3-pointer as the shot clock expired on the Privateers' opening possession.
The Blue Raiders seemed to settle into a rhythm after that and opened a 16-10 lead, but UNO closed the first half strong and led by as many as seven in the first half in the opening 20 minutes.
Despite many opportunities, MT never regained the lead in the final 29 minutes of the game.
After trailing by six at halftime, MT fought back on numerous occasions to get within one possession of evening the score and finally did tie the game on two occasions late in the second half. But after a Desmond Yates jumper made it 58-58 with five minutes remaining, UNO went on a 7-0 in the next four minutes. During that stretch, MT went 0-for-6 from the floor.
F Desmond Yates: Yates wasn't perfect Saturday, but he was by far MT's best weapon. His game high 22 points helped the Raiders nearly win a game they didn't deserve to win. He also had three offensive rebounds. Despite hitting 11-of-20 from the field though, Yates didn't get to the foul line and he missed some key looks down the stretch.
G Demetrius Green: It's hard to find many solid performances past Yates, but Green did show some signs of life with an 11 point outing that included some of his usual strong drives to the basket. There is still another level Green can hit though.
F Montarrio Haddock-Haddock got in serious foul trouble again but in his 24 minutes offered his usual bright spots. Haddock finished with seven points but it's no coincidence the Raiders seem to play better when he is on the floor.
Honorable Mention: Kevin Kanaskie-Kanaskie gutted his way through a 34 minute performance despite lingering back problems. He again played a full game with no turnovers and dished three assists.
Season Star Count
Yates (32) Green (20) Kanaskie (18) Haddock (16) Johnson (13) O'Neil (5) Allen (1) Williams (1) Avery (1)
One of the things that has plagued the Blue Raiders defensively is their propensity to pile up fouls. That certainly was the case Saturday as the Raiders were whistled for 23 fouls and UNO spent a majority of the second half in the bonus and nearly half of it in the double bonus. The Privateers shot 17 of their 24 free throws in the second half. MT had three players with at least four fouls and struggled to get defensive stops without using their hands. UNO shot better than 50 percent each half and got to the line enough to offset the fact that MT had a dozen more shot attempts during the game.
LONG RANGE WOES
MT hit just 3-of-19 from 3-point range against UNO, just the latest in a disturbing trend of long range shooting struggles. The Blue Raiders are hitting just 32.4 percent from behind the arc for the season.
In its three conference defeats, the Raiders have hit less than 30 percent from long range.
It's difficult to lay the blame specifically for those struggles. Kanaskie is the team's best long range shooter and he is fighting back pain. Eric Allen has never been able to dial in a consistent long range shot despite excellent shooting in preseason drills.
Perhaps the lengthened 3-point line is having an effect as well. Statistically, it appears to have deeply affected Yates, who last year hit 51.3 percent from 3-point range. This year, he has dropped to 35.7. Overall, MT is about 3.5 percentage points worse from downtown than it was last year.
Jan. 29: Middle Tennessee vs. Louisiana-Lafayette, 7 p.m.