Photo by Tyler Lamb / Sports Editor
Middle Tennessee defeated the Belmont Bruins 79-66 in a hard-fought matchup at the Curb Event Center in Nashville. Belmont showed their three-point ability and led in the second half, but it was the Blue Raiders that got in the last word, pulling away in the end.
MTSU started the game firing on all cylinders. Led by the big three of Upshaw, Williams, and Potts, the Blue Raiders went went up 13-0 and didn’t allow Belmont to score a bucket until the 14:49 mark.
The Blue Raiders would continue to assert their will on the Bruins until the final minutes of the first half when the team went cold from the floor. Belmont would take advantage as Dylan Windler, Austin Luke, and Taylor Barnette would knock down three-pointers to tie the game up at 24-24.
MTSU never fall behind, however, as they went into the locker room at halftime leading 31-28.
Belmont came out with a winning mentality in the second half as they immediately tied up the ballgame 35-35 on an Austin Luke three ball.
The Bruins would continue to connect from deep range as they would go 6-0f-10 in second half lead by Taylor Barnette. The sharp shooter ended the game 4-of-9 from behind the arc, hitting crucial shots down the stretch.
Mid-way through the second half, Belmont went 6-of-7 from the field. Of those six made shots, four were three-pointers.
Barnette knocked down a three with 10:05 left to give the Bruins a 56-52 lead, but from then on, it was all Middle Tennessee.
The Blue Raiders began to double on ball screens which forced the Bruins out of their groove. Belmont, along with Barnette cooled off from the floor and the Blue Raiders took advantage.
MTSU’s Antwain Johnson and Tyrik Dixon would return the favor in the closing minutes as the tandem combined for four shots from deep to extend the lead.
Giddy Potts would put the nail in the coffin with another three as the Blue Raiders would run away with the lead and win by 13.
Despite the late success with the three-point ball, head coach Kermit Davis credited the efforts to that of his post players
“I thought even right at the start of the second half, we started going right to the paint,” Davis said. “Usually most teams, you get the ball in the paint and then you start making shots. And I thought Reggie and JaCorey both were real physical around the rim, they finished balls, they got to the line and they really made some nice assists out of the paint.”
The Blue Raiders also controlled the points off turnovers ratio in the second half. MTSU scored 20 points off of Belmont’s 13 turnovers while the Bruins only cashed in seven points off the five Blue Raider mistakes.
Upshaw lead MTSU, going 8-of-13 for 21 points and six rebounds.
Williams closed out the night yet another double-double performance as the forward scored 18 and collected 11 boards.
Potts rounded out the trio with 17 points, going 3-of-4 from deep.
Antwain Johnson also added 10 points in the win, his first double-digit scoring affair since the first game of the season against Milligan.
MTSU is back in action this Saturday when they travel to take on VCU. Tip-off is slated for 6 p.m.
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