Photo provided by: MT Athletics // Brent Beerends
Middle Tennessee (8-5, 0-1 C-USA) started strong Sunday in the Conference USA opener against defending champion UAB (11-3, 1-0 C-USA), but it couldn’t find any momentum in the second half, falling 78-63 in Birmingham.
The contest was a continuation of junior Reggie Upshaw’s strong play of late, with the forward finishing with 21 points and 15 rebounds, playing a game-high 35 minutes.
The first half was big for the Blue Raiders, with Upshaw and fellow forward Darnell Harris combining for 26 of the team’s 42 points before the break. Upshaw scored 15 of his 21 in the first 20 minutes while Harris seemed to be completely absent after the first half, only scoring one of his 16 points after the break.
Jacob Ivory, who is starting to get more minutes after coming back from concussion symptoms related to last season, finished with three points and three assists in 12 minutes of action.
The second half was the difference, with the Blazers finding the form most expected to see from them this season. Robert Brown and William Lee executed well in the second half, something they did back in March in the C-USA championship game.
Brown finished with just 14 points but scored 11 in the second half, shooting 4-of-5 from the field in the second 20 minutes. Lee scored 10 points after halftime, adding five from the charity stripe.
Shooting woes were the downfall for Middle Tennessee in Sunday’s contest, with the Blue Raiders shooting a woeful 6-for-30 in the second half and 2-for-11 from behind the three-point arch.
Rebounding was another critical issue for the Blue Raiders in the second half, allowing 21 Blazer defensive rebounds and giving up 32 points in the paint.
The Blue Raiders finished with 19 second half fouls, something they’ll be looking to change as they head into the heart of the C-USA schedule.
The loss was the fifth of the season for head coach Kermit Davis and the Blue Raiders, who will return home to take on UTEP on Jan. 7. Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m.
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