MURFREESBORO – Middle Tennessee (19-17) was looking to make a deep run in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament, but its season ended Wednesday night in Murphy Center as Kent State (22-11) took down the Blue Raiders, 68-56, in the first round.
MTSU was looking to mirror its run from the Conference USA Championship last week, but poor shooting and missed chances on 50-50 balls kept that from happening.
“They (Kent State) just chased balls down,” said MTSU Head Coach Kermit Davis. “Guys wouldn’t chase 50-50 balls.”
The Blue Raiders came out on fire, making five of their first six 3’s that gave them a 24-21 advantage with 7:47 remaining in the first half. However, MTSU lost the lead for the rest of the game after a technical foul call on Davis changed the whole complexion of the game.
The technical foul came after the referees missed a blatant offensive goal-tending call on a dunk by Kent State’s Raasean Davis. MTSU’s Davis argued the call demonstratively, and received a technical foul. This sent the Golden Flashes’ to the free-throw line, where they made 1-of-2. The three-point swing seemed to give Kent State all the momentum.
“Did I deserve the technical? You bet,” Davis said. “Was it an offensive goal-tend? No doubt.”
From there, Kent State ended the first half on a 17-5 run, bolting the Golden Flashes to the 40-29 halftime lead. Kent State could not miss in the first half, as it shot 15-of-28 (53.6 percent) from the field. MTSU went 10-of-25 (40.0 percent) from the field. Both teams made 5-of-9 (55.6 percent) from beyond the arc.
MTSU needed a run with its season on the line, but Kent State was too much for the Blue Raiders. MTSU cut the lead to seven, 48-41, with 13:37 remaining, but that was as close as it got. The Golden Flashes overpowered the Blue Raiders in the second half, pulling away to the 68-58 victory.
Kent State advances to the next round of the CIT, and MTSU’s season is over.
“(I) hate it ended like that,” Coach Davis said after the match.
Poor shooting proved to be the dagger for the Blue Raiders, as they shot 16-of-46 (34.8 percent) on the night, including a terrible 6-of-21 (28.6 percent) in the second half. They also shot just 14-of-23 (60.9 percent) from the free-throw line.
Senior Jacquez Rozier nearly had a double-double in his final game as a Blue Raider, recording 10 points and eight rebounds. In his career, Rozier won 98 games, the most by any player in program history in a four-year stretch.
“I’m proud of Jac (Rozier) and Gavin (Gibson),” said Coach Davis. “To leave here with the most wins in the history of men’s basketball, that’s quite a feat.”
Junior Perrin Buford matched Rozier’s output, scoring 10 points. This marked his eighth straight game with double-digit points.
Jimmy Hall, Kent State’s leading scorer for the season, was a monster inside for the Golden Flashes, as he recorded 20 points on 9-of-14 shooting and eight boards. Derek Jackson and Kris Brewer also scored in double digits in the win. Jackson scored 16 on the night, draining 4-of-6 from three-point range.
MTSU will now turn its attention to next season.
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