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November 16, 2008
MT 80, HBU 63: Inside the box
"I'm definitely going to focus on the positives from this game. I thought that the first half our energy level was terrific and we shared the ball great. I think Houston Baptist can win some games in our league."
The Blue Raiders blitzed the visiting Huskies with a barrage of steals and offensive rebounds in the first half to take a commanding 43-22 halftime advantage, but a sloppy second half left plenty of items for the MT coaching staff to work on over the course of the next five days as the Blue Raiders prepare for Tennessee.
Desmond Yates scored 19 points to pace the MT attack, while Kevin Kanaskie didn't let a cold shooting night deter him from handing out a team high nine assists.
Middle Tennessee set the tone right from the beginning of the game but the Blue Raiders used a 9-2 run about four minutes into the game that left no doubt who the better team was on this day. MT extended an 8-5 advantage at the 16:00 mark into a 17-7 lead four minutes later. In that stretch, four different Blue Raiders scored and Montarrio Haddock provided a spark off the bench with three quick points and a rebound.
SF Calvin O'Neil: O'Neil was a major spark for the Blue Raiders, especially during their key first half run that separated the game. O'Neil grabbed five offensive rebounds on the night and reached double figures with 10 points. He also drew four charges in the game. His versatile performance gives him our top billing for the day.
F Desmond Yates: Yates had his second consecutive efficient offensive performance. The junior hit 8 of 11 shots from the floor on his way to a team high 19 points, despite playing just 23 minutes due to foul trouble. On the negative side, Yates again failed to grab an offensive rebound. When he has the ball in his hands though, it feels like good things are about to happen for MT.
G Nigel Johnson-Johnson maximized his shot attemps by scoring 17 points on 6 of 8 shooting from the floor and he made some key transition plays that helped the Blue Raiders keep the tempo in their favor. Johnson also fought foul trouble and had an uncharacteristically poor night with turnovers (two assists, four turnovers), but the Huskies had few answers for his full court quickness.
Honorable Mention: Kevin Kanaskie-The senior guard was on fire Friday night in the season opener, but he couldn't find his stroke Sunday while hitting just one of his eight 3-point tries. He still played a stellar floor game though with nine assists and team co-leading seven rebounds.
Season Star Count
Yates (4) Kanaskie (3) O'Neil (3) Johnson (1) Avery (1)
OVERCOMING COLD SHOOTING
Kanaskie wasn't the only Blue Raider to struggle from behind the 3-point line. The rest of the team only hit 3 of 11 combined from long range, but the Blue Raiders still managed to pull away early and cruise to a convincing win. MT hit just 2 of 14 from behind the arc in the first half and finished the game 4 of 19. The Blue Raiders tied a school record Friday for 3-point shooting accuracy by hitting 12 of 18 against Trevecca.
SHARING THE BALL
Kermit Davis has called this team the best passing team he has had in his tenure at Middle Tennessee and Sunday's first half brought more evidence for why he feels that way. The Blue Raiders had nine first half assists on 17 made baskets and had several good assists in 3-on-2 and 2-on-1 transition situations. A sloppy second half resulted in MT having 21 turnovers to just 16 assists, but the Blue Raiders have looked very crisp passing the ball in 60 of the 80 minutes they have played so far this season.
MOVING BACK TO FULL STRENGTH
The Blue Raiders will welcome back Demetrius Green Friday night when they host Tennessee at Murphy Center. Green was suspended for four games prior to the beginning of the season and sat out both exhibition games and the two games this weekend. With a good week of practice leading up to the game, it's very possible that Green will be in the starting lineup when the Volunteers come to Murfreesboro. MT is also still trying to completely heal Theryn Hudson, who has been rehabilitating a surgically repaired foot and a twisted ankle. Davis said after the game Hudson's status for the Tennessee game is still uncertain and he reiterated that he will not take any unreasonable chances with Hudson if it puts the rest of his season in jeopardy.
Nov. 21: Tennessee at Middle Tennessee, 7:30 p.m.