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January 17, 2009
UALR 70, MT 65: Inside the box
"That's the game and I can't say anything more. There's one telling stat in the game and that's they shoot 34 free throws and we shoot 14."
Instead, the Blue Raiders just got an extra helping of frustration handed to them as UALR took a 70-65 win behind the strength of a 17 point advantage at the foul line.
The Trojans scored 37 second half of points, with 25 of them coming at the charity stripe as MT couldn't overcome mounting foul trouble.
MT held a brief second half lead after a driving basket by Montarrio Haddock, but the Blue Raiders couldn't halt UALR's march to the foul line and missed a couple of final opportunities to draw even or take the lead in the final few possessions.
The last gasp came when Calvin O'Neil missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with a couple of ticks left on the clock and MT trailing by two. O'Neil would have needed to make the first free throw and miss the second on purpose in hopes of a teammate ripping down an offensive rebound and scoring a putback.
Haddock's three point play with 9:22 remaining put MT ahead 48-46, but the Trojans surged back into the lead with a 7-0 run that included five points from the foul line. Though they would get within one point on four separate occasions the rest of the game, the Blue Raiders never again tied the score or took the lead.
G Kevin Kanaskie: Nobody emerged as an obvious candidate for top honors, but Kanaskie gets the edge for playing the most minutes (36) and for knocking down three big 3-pointers. He missed some opportunities late that could have helped turn the game but he provided a mostly steady effort on a night when the Blue Raiders faced a lot of adversity.
F Montarrio Haddock: Haddock nearly made it the whole game without fouling out, an accomplishment in of itself for him. But he had another overall standout performance to continue his development as a consistently reliable performer. He pulled down four offensive rebounds and scored nine points in 29 minutes.
F Desmond Yates-Yates is held to a higher standard by many observers because of his preseason player of the year status in the league. That's why a 17 point performance from him seems basically pedestrian. Yates had flashes of good offense, but his five turnovers were costly and his late game foul trouble made MT's comeback efforts significantly more difficult.
Honorable Mention: Eric Allen-After not playing much at WKU, Allen logged 14 minutes at UALR and made two outstanding offensive plays, including a high flying offensive rebound putback in the second half.
Season Star Count
Yates (27) Green (18) Kanaskie (18) Johnson (13) Haddock (12) O'Neil (5) Allen (1) Avery (1)
UALR shot 47.5 percent from the floor, certainly higher than MT would like to allow, but the Blue Raiders lost the game because of the difference at the foul line.
MT hit four more field goals in the game overall and four more 3-pointers than the Trojans. The Raiders dominated the boards and especially controlled the offensive glass, but they just couldn't keep UALR off the foul line.
And when the Trojans got to the line, they capitalized. A 70 percent free throw shooting team for the season so far, UALR hit more than 85 percent from the stripe Saturday.
MISSING AN USUAL STRENGTH
MT typically causes opponents' plenty of problems by forcing turnovers and turning those miscues into offense on the other end. UALR neutralized that normal Blue Raider advantage and then some. The Trojans only turned it over nine times and outscored MT 12-5 in the critical points off turnovers category. The Blue Raiders didn't record a single steal for the first time all season.
Jan. 22: Middle Tennessee vs. Arkansas State, 7 p.m.