Photo by Tyler Lamb / Sports Editor
Perry Patton / Contributing Writer to this story
Middle Tennessee (2-1) led for nearly 30 of the 40 total minutes in Saturday’s matchup with in-state rival Tennessee State (3-0) at Murphy Center. The Tigers won down the stretch and took their first victory over MTSU since 200o, winning 74-63.
It was a back and forth battle with both teams showing their athleticism in the early minutes.
MTSU had the advantage throughout the first half, until the team went through a four-minute field goal drought that allowed the Tigers to settle in and chip away at a seven point lead.
Wayne Martin and Jordan Reed did practically all of the work for TSU in the first half. Jordan Reed’s free throw at the 7:16 mark was the only other point by a Tiger after 20 minutes of play.
A scrappy first half concluded with a Tiger lay-up at the buzzer that made the score 30-28.
Right out of the break, Ed Simpson knocked down a corner three that sparked a quick 5-0 run. The Tigers would not bow out, however, as they would answer with a Tahjere McCall dunk, followed by taking a charge on defense.
Moments later, the crowd of 4,830 fell momentarily quiet after the Tigers tied the game off a free throw.
MTSU’s Antwain Johnson got the Blue Raider faithful on their feet after a three-pointer and followed the next possession with an alley-oop off a lob from Upshaw to put them up 42-37. The Tigers showed poise in the following minutes, going on a 19-4 run and taking their first lead in the process.
Senior JaCorey Williams continued to claw, as he would take over on offense from this point. Williams accounted for 14 of the final 17 MTSU points in regulation.
TSU wouldn’t let the Blue Raiders gain a significant run to get back in it, taking their first victory over MT since 2000.
The Blue Raiders still holds a 36-17 all-time lead in the series.
Williams led MTSU in scoring with 18 while Upshaw and Simpson chipped in 13 and 12, respectively.
Potts continued his shooting slump through the first three games. So far, the 2015-2016 three-point king is only 3-of-15 through the first three games, going 0-3 on Saturday.
Karl Gamble also made his first start tonight accounting for just one basket in 12 minutes of play.
The two main keys in Saturday’s loss were points in paint and free throw battle.
The Tigers beat MTSU 38-18 in points in the paint, with TSU’s Martin leading the charge. The forward, who had a double-double before halftime, dominated in the paint and ended his day 9-13 with 22 points.
TSU shot 77 percent from the free-throw line while MTSU made just 37 percent of theirs. In the final 4:18 of the game, all of the Tigers’ 13 points came off of free throws.
MTSU will look to get back on track this Tuesday as they take on Toledo at 6:30 p.m at home.
For more sports stories, follow us at www.mtsusidelines.com, on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines and on Twitter at @Sidelines_Sport.
To contact Sports Editor Tyler Lamb (@Tlamb35), email email@example.com.