Photo by Tyler Lamb / Sports Editor
The Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders rebounded from their first conference loss of the season nicely this past week, defeating Old Dominion 64-51 on Thursday and Charlotte 70-55 on Saturday.
Despite the double-digit margins, MT continued its nasty trend of slow starts against the 49ers and five minutes into the game, they found themselves down 12-4. They had some chances in the paint but failed to convert, a problem head coach Kermit Davis believes was due to a lack of toughness.
“We had some opportunities at the goal, but I thought we were being intimidated around the goal,” Davis said. “We missed some layups, they blocked some shots. I didn’t think we had a lot of energy defensively.”
Even though they only faced an eight-point deficit, the bigger issue was the lack of emotion and energy on the Blue Raiders’ part.
That all changed when senior forward Aldonis Foote entered the game. He’s never been a player to fill the box score, but he does a multitude of things that aren’t keen to the average observer. He dives for loose balls, tips passes and displays toughness on the boards, a trait that Foote is proud to have.
“It’s a gift, something that you work hard for every day in practice,” Foote said. “Especially with coach Davis’ practice, you go hard every day, every drill and every second.”
While he didn’t play a minute in the team’s win over ODU, Foote didn’t hang his head and pout. Instead, he brought all of the energy at the team’s Friday practice, something that didn’t go unnoticed by Davis.
“On Friday, his energy was probably better than anybody on the whole team,” Davis said of his forward. “It gives us a big lift when he plays that way. If he does it every day in practice, with the energy level he has at times, he could have a chance to be starting on this team.”
The team has one of its most crucial games of the season coming up on Thursday when they take on Western Kentucky in Bowling Green. Foote said the team can’t afford a slow start if they want to begin their three-game road stand off with a win.
“[We’ve got to] find some energy coming out of the locker room to start the game,” Foote said. “We’ve got to start having fun with each other, going hard in the layup lines…just finding a different kind of energy.”
While some may think looking at a matchup as a rivalry game may create distractions, coach Davis doesn’t shy away from calling it such because he appreciates the pageantry.
“I always think it’s great to look at it as a rivalry game. We put emphasis on it,” Davis said. “It’s another really important league game and I know Western Kentucky will play their best against us there and I know it’s one our guys really look forward to. It should be a great atmosphere.”
The Blue Raiders will take on the Hilltoppers with tip-off is set for 8 p.m. The game can be viewed on the CBS Sports Network.