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November 1, 2008

What we noticed: MT 81, Cumberland 70

Middle Tennessee's 81-70 win over Cumberland in the exhibition opener left a lot to be desired for head coach Kermit Davis, but the game was not without its bright spots.

Here's the three things that most stood out to me from courtside:

1) Steady hands look shaky - Senior guards Kevin Kanaskie and Nigel Johnson had impressive stat lines at the end of the day. The two combined for 23 points and 14 assists, while Johnson was the team's leading rebounder with seven. However, the Blue Raiders need better decision making from both of them than what they showed against Cumberland. The offense lacked a consistent rhythm and both made some poor decisions in the open floor while combining for six turnovers. Johnson and Kanaskie each have a long enough track record of success to not be alarmed by some of their struggles, but they need to be in complete command for the Blue Raiders to be hitting on all cylinders. The offense runs through each of them.

2) SIZE DOES MATTER - The Blue Raiders are an undersized team without senior post Theryn Hudson in the lineup. With Desmond Yates starting at the five spot, the preseason Sun Belt Player of the Year got in early foul trouble and struggled defensively against Cumberland big man Kenneth Sims. Yates finished the game with 27 points in just 23 minutes, but he only had four rebounds and Davis felt like his star player had a soft performance around the goal. With Dino Hair not grabbing a single rebound and also drawing foul trouble, the Blue Raiders had major issues in the paint. Hair has to become a more consistent presence and the coaching staff needs to find a way to not have to rely on Yates playing at the five spot.

3) KEEP EYE ON HADDOCK- By the end of the year, junior college transfer Montarrio Haddock could end up being the most impressive newcomer on the roster. Haddock hit just 1 of 7 from the floor but he got to the free throw line six times and pulled down three offensive rebounds. He is arguably Middle Tennessee's strongest player and the shots that he missed he will typically make at a much higher percentage. As he continues to reshape his body, Haddock can grow into a very difficult matchup for Sun Belt opponents.


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