Photo by Tyler Lamb / Sports Editor
Veteran head coach Rick Stansbury, who is now in his first season with Western Kentucky, took to the mic in Saturday night’s postgame press conference following their 91-76 loss and said what he really thought about the Middle Tennessee basketball program.
“I told somebody that Middle Tennessee, I’m not so sure..and you guys know this, you Middle Tennessee guys…are they the third best team in the SEC? Think about that. I’m not so sure. Outside of Kentucky and Florida, who’s better than them? I think they’re that good. And they are experienced, they’re well put together. Kermit [Davis] does a good job with them. So they are going to be a tough out for anybody, anywhere.”
The high praises come from a coach who has 26 years of Southeastern Conference coaching experience. A long time staple of Mississippi State, Stansbury resigned in 2012 as the school’s all-time winningest coach with 293 wins.
Earlier this season, MTSU embarrassed SEC team’s Ole Miss and Vanderbilt in very memorable outings. The Blue Raiders knocked off the Rebels with ease in Oxford, cruising to victory after being up 29 at halftime.
Against the Commodores, it was Giddy Potts who came to play, leaving with 27 points and an #SCTop10 alley-oop.
In the Blue Raiders only two games against SEC foes, they beat their opponents by an accumulative score of 138-117.
Saturday night was the 133rd meeting between MTSU and Western Kentucky in the historic 100 Miles of Hate Rivalry. But for Stansbury, it was his first, and he was impressed.
“That’s the first time I’d seen [MTSU] in person. There’s no question they are the best team in this league,” said Stansbury. “They’re well coached, they play hard, they have good pieces. You can tell they are a veteran basketball team because they don’t make too many mistakes.”
Stansbury also alluded to the fact that MTSU’s size is what makes them so deadly.
“[JaCorey] Williams is a load, [Reggie] Upshaw is a load, big boy from Walters State they brought in.. [Brandon] Walters.. a load in there,” said Stansbury. “They are just bigger and better around that front line. We’re not going to make any excuses, they are just bigger and better around there.”
The Blue Raiders beat WKU in the rebounding edge 33-19 with Upshaw and Walters leading the charge with nine and eight boards, respectively. Of those 33 rebounds, 15 were offensive that lead to 18 total second-chance points.
The Blue Raiders dominated Western Kentucky with ease, even though Giddy Potts (15.2 points per game) was held to just two points due to foul trouble.
“We’re not going to beat Middle Tennessee right now, that’s just where it is,” said Stansbury. “They’re better than us.”
The two teams square-off again on Thursday, Feb. 16 in Bowling Green.