Photo by: UAA Athletic Communications//Sam Wasson
The Middle Tennessee men’s basketball (4-1) traveled to Anchorage, Alaska to participate in the Great Alaska Shootout over the Thanksgiving break, their first real test of the season. The Blue Raiders came out early and secured pivotal close wins, then used second half poise in the final to take the Shootout title over Toledo. Perrin Buford, Reggie Upshaw, and Giddy Potts all earned All-Tournament Team honors.
MTSU 75-72 Alaska Anchorage
The team began play against host University of Alaska Anchorage (6-4) on Thanksgiving Day. The Blue Raiders were tested early, but they would take a 25-13 lead halfway through the first half. The Seawolves finished the first half on a 11-5 run to cut their deficit to four heading into the locker room.
The Blue Raiders maintained their lead throughout the second half, until the Seawolves went on a 13-0 run to take a 66-64 lead with three minutes left in the game. Middle Tennessee gained a 67-66 lead with over a minute left in the game, and they would hold on the beat the Seawolves 75-72.
The Blue Raiders were lead by senior Perrin Buford, who scored 18 points and grabbed five rebounds off of the bench, while playing only 20 minutes. Giddy Potts continued his strong play to start the season, finishing with 16 points.
MTSU 63-61 UNC Asheville
UNC Asheville (3-4) was Middle Tennessee’s next opponent Friday evening in the second round of the Great Alaskan Shootout. The Blue Raiders went on an early 11-2 run to start the game, and they would continue their dominance into the half, taking a 37-25 halftime lead over the Bulldogs. Senior Darnell Harris led the way for Middle Tennessee with 12 first half points, while snatching four rebounds.
The Blue Raiders continued their dominance in the second half, increasing their lead to a 19-point lead with just over 11 minutes left in the game, but the Bulldogs weren’t going to just lie down. UNC Asheville went on a 19-2 run over the next five minutes of the game to cut Middle Tennessee’s lead to 53-51 with just under six minutes remaining. MTSU would hang on to their two point lead throughout the last five minutes of the game to finish off the Bulldogs 63-61.
Harris led all scorers with 15 points, and Edward Simpson, Reggie Upshaw, Giddy Potts, and Perrin Buford were all in double figures. However, the Bulldogs out-rebounded the Blue Raiders 36-31, which was something the Blue Raiders would need to improve on if they wanted to win the tournament.
MTSU 78-70 Toledo
The Blue Raiders took on the Toledo Rockets (4-2) in the Great Alaskan Shootout championship game. The first half was a half of runs, as the Rockets came out of the game quick, jumping out to a nine point lead, but the Blue Raiders would respond. Middle Tennessee came storming back in the last five minutes to cut that nine point lead all the way down. Reggie Upshaw hit a three-pointer with seven-seconds left to knot things up at 32 going into the half.
The second half had the roles reversed, as the Blue Raiders started the second half on a 8-0 run. The Rockets were able to cut their deficit to only two, but Middle Tennessee would not relinquish their lead. Reggie Upshaw led the Blue Raiders with 17 points and seven rebounds, and Giddy Potts, Jaqawn Raymond, and Perrin Buford were all in double figures for the Blue Raiders, as they finished off Toledo 78-70 even though they were out-rebounded once again.
The Blue Raiders take on VCU (4-2) at 8 p.m. on Wednesday night in their home opener.
To contact Interim Sports Editor Connor Ulrey, email firstname.lastname@example.org.