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December 7, 2008
MT 80, SIUE 51: Inside the box
"Our team is starting to get an identity. We got 17 offensive rebounds against Houston and got 19 offensive rebounds today so we are starting to become a better rebounding team which is positive."
Desmond Yates scored a game high 25 points to lead the Blue Raiders, who played without seniors Nigel Johnson and Theryn Hudson for the second straight game.
Hudson has now missed all but one game this season, but is expected to practice Monday.
Montarrio Haddock helped pick up the slack for Hudson's absence with 19 points and nine rebounds on 8 of 10 shooting.
You wouldn't know it from the final score, but the game was tight for most of the first half and SIUE drew even at 22-22 with 7:06 remaining. Middle Tennessee dominated the next 16 minutes of action though and by the 11 minute mark of the second half had opened up a 30 point lead. A 17-2 run to end the first half set the stage for the blowout. Yates, Haddock, and Demetrius Green keyed the spurt on the offensive end while the Blue Raiders significantly improved their defensive effort during the half's final minutes. SIUE's only points in the final seven minutes came on a pair of free throws at the 3:27 mark.
F Montarrio Haddock: Kermit Davis called Haddock his best rebounder per minutes played and that's why the junior college transfer drew the start against the Cougars. Haddock didn't disappoint on the boards, but he was also outstanding offensively overall. Three of his nine rebounds were offensive and he was very efficient from the floor, including a smooth 3-pointer in transition in the second half.
F Desmond Yates: Davis felt like Yates wasn't as active as he should have been defensively, but the star junior was very active on offense. He scored 25 points in just 21 minutes of action and returned to his normal self around the basket after some inefficient performances in the last three games. Yates missed only five shots in the game and got all of his shots within a smooth flow of the offense.
G Demetrius Green-Green was the third Blue Raider in double figures with 12 points, eight of which came in a quick spurt at the start of the second half that turned a comfortable MT lead into a blowout. Green continued his good rebounding with a pair of offensive boards and he also had four assists in 26 minutes of action.
Honorable Mention: Calvin O'Neil-O'Neil tied Haddock for the team lead in rebounds and led the team with four offensive rebounds. He showed extended shooting range by hitting a pair of 17-footers in the first half for four of his five points in the game.
Season Star Count
Green (9) Yates (9) Kanaskie (5) O'Neil (4) Johnson (4) Haddock (3) Avery (1)
It's been a long road for Montarrio Haddock to get his body into playing shape, but the fruits of his labor are beginning to become evident. Kermit Davis said after the game he's been anticipating the type of performance Haddock delivered against the Cougars.
"He's been really really close and it was good to see him play kind of like we think he is going to play from here on out, with that kind of energy and he's getting in better shape," Davis said after the game. "Montarrio for minutes played is by far our leading rebounder in games."
Haddock showed a more versatile offensive game in scoring 19 points. He got some points off offensive rebounds, some off pull up jump shots, one off a 3-pointer, and some off a dribble drive. It was the kind of performance that could mean great things for the Blue Raiders in the future if it sparks consistent confidence in Haddock.
His improved conditioning has been the catalyst for his improvement in practice and better production in games.
"Coach tells me if I practice hard I'll play better ... Coach has been getting on me a lot telling me I was soft so I had to prove him wrong," Haddock said. "I'm in great shape now. I couldn't even finish the drills sometime at the beginning of the season. He's been running me a lot ... and I've lost about 23 or 24 pounds."
MORE INJURY CONCERNS?
Davis said after the game he got on to senior guard Kevin Kanaskie for turning down some open shots. Kanaskie struggled from the floor for the fourth straight game Sunday, but Davis did say his backcourt stalwart may have had a reason to be off against the Cougars.
"He's got to shoot balls," Davis said of the shots Kanaskie turned down. "He's as good a shooter as there is in this leage. In Kevin's defense he almost didn't play today. Friday night at 11 o'clock he had a blood clot underneath his knee and he had a ton of blood drained out of it. He didn't do anything (Saturday) and in his defense I don't know if Kevin is totally healthy right now."
Nigel Johnson had been upgraded to questionable for Sunday's game after he reported feeling significant improvement on Friday. When he didn't feel as good on Saturday, the decision was made to go ahead and hold him out against SIUE. Davis said they will continue to monitor Johnson's condition day by day leading up to Thursday's conference opener against Troy.
Theryn Hudson dressed for Sunday's game but didn't play. He is expected to return to practice Monday.
WILLIAMS GETS VALUABLE MINUTES
Freshman guard DeMario Williams has benefited from the injury to Johnson. It has allowed him to play many more significant minutes and gain valuable experience that could pay off later in the year.
He finished Sunday's game with just two points on 1 of 8 shooting and two assists, but Davis was overall pleased with the first year contributor's work.
"It was good that DeMario got to play those kind of minutes .. I thought he defended well," Davis said. "He took one bad (3-pointer) in the first half and as a freshman he struggled sometimes getting us into offense ... 22 minutes is great for him right now. Hopefully Nigel can come back healthy but I think those minutes have helped (Williams). If he goes 4 for 8 you really feel like he played well today."
O'NEIL GOES LIGHTER
O'Neil's nine rebounds and three steals may have been at least partially attributable to a small uniform change he made. The big bulky brace he has been wearing on his surgically repaired knee was noticeably smaller against SIUE, an adjustment Davis thinks made a difference.
"He changed braces and went to a lighter brace, one that is (less restrictive)," Davis said of O'Neil. "I thought he moved better and chased balls down, so that was good to see. He had four offensive rebounds."
Middle Tennessee junior Darren Avery was missing from the bench Sunday and Davis said after the game that Avery will be out indefinitely.
"Darren Avery has been indefinitely suspended from our team," Davis said. "He didn't dress today and hasn't practiced the last three days. It's just simple, he has not had an attitude that has been conducive to being a really good teammate. We're going to sit down with (Avery) in the next two or three days. He's done a lot of good things for our program but the team is first and I don't think that he's exemplified what a teammate really is, as his role has shaped on our team."
Dec. 11: Troy at Middle Tennessee, 7 p.m.