Photo by Tyler Lamb / Sports Editor
Kermit Davis and Middle Tennessee brought home the win 66-55, and championship in the Challenge in Music City Tournament on Sunday night at the Municipal Auditorium against Evansville.
MTSU forward JaCorey Williams was awarded the tournament MVP after totaling 25 points and 10 rebounds against the Purple Aces, his first career double-double.
It was a back-and-forth game between MTSU and Evansville’s Ryan Taylor to open up the game. Taylor scored the first 11 points for the Purple Aces and played a key role in pushing his team out to an 11-0 run midway through the first half.
During the run, MTSU got into their signature 1-3-1 in hopes to slow the Aces down. The Blue Raiders stepped up and immediately caused trouble for Evansville.
“We’ve improved. These three straight games have helped us in our man-to-man defense,” said head coach Kermit Davis. “We were almost playing too much to rely on our 1-3-1 defense. But I thought we guarded in the half-court much better tonight. I thought we challenged shots and were more connected as a team.”
The Blue Raiders inched closer to the Aces lead when Ed Simpson knocked down a three-pointer to cut it to three points at the 8:04 mark.
Moments later, Dixon sent an alley-oop to Williams that really got team energy moving. MTSU closed out the the half tied 29-29.
Early into the second half, MTSU went on a 13-2 run that lasted nearly seven minutes. The run saw Potts and Dixon each hit beyond the arc, as well as Williams complete an old-fashion three-point play.
The Blue Raiders would secure the lead and hold on for the 11-point victory, beating three tough teams in three days.
“They were all really good games throughout the tournament,” said Davis. “It’s all three quality teams. They were just like three really good conference USA games.”
MTSU’s kryptonite has been shooting from the free throw line as of late. But on Saturday, the team wasn’t even put on the line until nine minutes left in the first half. The team finished the night 11-of-14 (64.7%)
“It seems like we have a knack of making free throws even though we hadn’t shot them well that night down the stretch. We just got to get confident group. We have to get there more than 17 times.”
Reggie Upshaw totaled 14 points while Simpson and Potts chipped in eight apiece.
MTSU is back in action Wednesday when they travel to Oxford to take on Ole Miss. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.