Middle Tennessee (8-4) came home after a two-game road trip to take on the Trevecca Trojans (4-9) in their final game before conference play. The Blue Raiders were able to get a win over the Trojans 82-67 after two straight road losses at Georgia State and South Dakota State.
The Blue Raiders were without point guard Giddy Potts for the third-straight game, as he is serving an academic suspension for not meeting academic requirements.
“Guys, everyone would like to be more detailed, but when it comes to academics with any student athlete, it’s just where it is,” Head Coach Kermit Davis said regarding Potts’ academic suspension. “He [Potts] is just working through an academic issue that we hope we can get resolved real quick. There is a possibility he could play at UAB, but he’s got some things he’s got to do. It’s on Giddy. I hate it, I mean he’s a good student, but its just one of those unfortunate situations.”
The Blue Raiders drilled their first three shots, jumping out to an early 7-2 lead. The Trojans weren’t as fortunate, missing three of their first five shots in the game.
Reggie Upshaw ditched the flattop look over the Holiday break, and it had an almost biblical effect of sorts, as he had a career night. Upshaw dropped a career-high 32 points and made a career-high 13 shots on 16 attempts. Upshaw also tied a career-high with three three-pointers on the night, and he was one rebound shy of his career-high with 13.
Upshaw’s incredible 32 point, 12 rebound performance was the first 30 point, 10 rebound game since Aylton Tesch on Feb. 5, 1998.
Upshaw scored 14 points in the first half in only 13 minutes. He was forced to sit for the final five-plus minutes of the first half due to foul trouble, but he was still able to finish with a career night.
“All week in practice Coach Davis was telling us since Giddy [Potts] was out, somebody had to step up, and take ahold of this team,” Junior forward Reggie Upshaw said. “We had two really physical days of practice, and, coming into tonight, Coach Davis let everybody know this was a game to make a statement going into the conference play.”
The Blue Raiders were able to get out to a 23-point lead near the end of the first half, but the Trojans played with desperation, cutting their deficit to 13 heading into the half. Middle Tennessee was shooting 45.5 percent at the break, when, at one point mid-way through the first half, they shot over 55% from the field, while the Trojans were shooting 40 percent from the field.
“I feel like we took our foot off the gas pedal. We kind of stopped playing defense. They got a lot of second-chance points during that spurt, but for the most part, we just got complacent. When we looked up and saw we were only up five, we kind of knew we had to step it back up and get that lead back up to where it was in the first half,” Upshaw said.
Middle Tennessee began the second half dazed and sloppy, missing their first three shots. Upshaw got the train rolling by corralling a few defensive rebounds and sinking a few buckets to swing the momentum back in Middle Tennessee’s favor.
“We’re not getting much consistency. We’ve just got to get more players playing better at the same time. If you don’t, you can’t win at UAB,” Davis said.
With just over eight minutes remaining in the game, Upshaw had tied his previous career-high in points with 21. Upshaw was able to snag the rebound over Trevecca defenders to seal his career night with a monster two-handed slam that electrified the crowd.
“It starts in practice. Coach Davis says that how you practice is how you’ll play. I’ve had a couple really good days of practice, so I came in kind of confident that I’d play really well. Maintaining those habits will help me through conference play,” Upshaw said.
The Blue Raiders finished shooting 48.4 percent from the field. The only issue for Middle Tennessee was beyond the arc, shooting a measly 6-for-19 (31.6 percent), which is an area where Potts is gravely missed. The Trojans turned the ball over 15 times while MTSU only turned it over 11 times.
“[Winning tonight] means a lot. It gives us a lot of momentum and confidence going into conference play, especially since we lost out last two. They were both tough, really close games that we could’ve easily walked away with,” Upshaw said.
Middle Tennessee will begin conference play on Sunday afternoon as they head south to take on the University of Alabama-Birmingham (9-3).
To contact Sports Editor Connor Ulrey, email email@example.com.