Photo by Tyler Lamb / Sports Editor
The Middle Tennessee State Men’s Basketball team faced the Murray State Racers in a tough, competitive matchup Tuesday night at Murphy Center. After overcoming a slow start and a nine-point deficit, the Blue Raiders came back and won 87-81 to improve to 2-0 in 2016.
The Racer and Blue Raider offenses exploded out of the gates. The Blue Raiders struggled to keep up with the Racers pace early. Murray State out hustled MT and created turnovers to gain an edge in the first minutes.
The Blue Raiders fought hard to get separation from the Racers defense. Murray State excelled at bringing help defense when needed to contest shots and it stifled the Blue Raiders dynamic offense.
Xavier Habersham gave a desperate spark for the Blue Raiders off the bench when they needed it most. Habersham connected on his first shot of the night and the first three for MT as a team. Prior to his shot, the Racers blanked the Blue Raiders from deep, shooting 0-6.
“Anytime you can have your bench come off and play a great game, it helps us take control of the game and get momentum back on our side,” Upshaw.
The Blue Raiders finally established themselves on offense as Ed Simpson started connecting from deep. On two straight possessions, Simpson came down the court and pulled up for threes, nailing both.
“[Simpson] can execute from any position and can play different spots defensively. Those guys are invaluable,” Coach Davis said.
MT overcame the Racers early lead by playing trap defense which gave the Racers problems. The Blue Raiders also became more physical and attacked inside the paint to give them the lead at the half, 41-39.
JaCorey Williams led the Blue Raiders coming out of the break with two quick buckets. He also facilitated a beautiful back door feed to Habersham for a layup. The Blue Raiders momentum carried over into the second half.
“The best type of offense is when the ball just free flows. We’re going to have a lot of different guys to score,” Coach Davis.
Three-point technician Giddy Potts found the mark for the first time with 9:14 left in the second as he banked it in. On the following possession, Habersham sprayed yet another three from downtown, giving the Blue Raiders the first double-digit lead of the night.
Williams continued to dominate the second half as he connected on two consecutive, and impressive, buckets in the paint with 6:23 in the second.
The Racers quickly gained on the Blue Raiders and cut into their lead to bring them within four points. With just over three minutes to play, the Racers had a critical possession and grabbed multiple rebounds but couldn’t capitalize on the opportunity.
Williams once more went up strong at the rim despite the double team brought on him. Williams shot found the bottom of the net and gave the Blue Raiders a comfortable lead with time winding down.
“I feel like I’m quicker than the average big,” Williams said. “I can use my athleticism to score as well.”
The Racers attempted to foul to mount the comeback but their attempt was unsuccessful as the Blue Raiders grinded out their second victory of the season. The Blue Raiders won by a six point margin, 87-81, putting them at 2-0 to start the season.
Williams ended the night with a team high 22 points. Upshaw recorded 15 and Potts tallied 16 points as well. Potts also led the team in rebounds with nine and Upshaw and Simpson led in assists with three.
The Blue Raiders will look to continue their momentum from the first two games and look for a 3-0 start against Tennessee State University. The Blue Raiders will take the court at Murphy Center on Saturday at 6:30 in a battle against the Tigers.
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