Photo by Darwin Moore / MTSU Sidelines
Middle Tennessee (23-4, 13-1 C-USA) completed the regular season sweep of rival Western Kentucky (12-14, 6-7) in a game where MTSU needed to build their resume going forward. They did just that…and more, winning 78-52.
Similarly to last Saturday’s game against Old Dominion, MTSU didn’t come to play early on. After a couple of key runs, however, the Blue Raiders obtained a lead and went into halftime up 32-18 after a 10-point first half performance from JaCorey Williams.
The second half was much of the same as MTSU expanded their lead by as much as 25 points. Big contributions from Xavier Habersham and Reggie Upshaw, along with a 20 and 10 night from JaCorey Williams helped MT beat their rival hoping to squash the Blue Raiders chances of an at-large NCAA bid.
After the game, WKU head coach Rick Stansbury gave MTSU all the credit.
“It’s very obvious who the best team out there was in every way,” Stansbury said. “They were just better than us; better prepared; better coached; tougher; more depth.”
MTSU overcomes slow start with big runs
WKU came out with all the momentum as MTSU began their night 0-5 from the floor. The big man in the middle, JaCorey Williams, knocked down a smooth 15-footer to quiet the crowd and subsequently, jumpstart an 8-0 Blue Raider run led by Upshaw with six points. They would continue their run to make it 14-6 before Western could answer.
Later in the half, MT found their lead was cut to just one point, 19-18 with 4:33 left in the first half. In response, the Blue Raiders put on more steam and left Western in the dust. Before the fans inside E.A. Diddle Arena could blink, MTSU left the court at halftime up 14 after a 13-o run.
Habersham perfect from deep range
Averaging 47 percent from beyond the arc on the season, Xavier “X-man” Habersham was deadly once again on Thursday. Habersham recorded his eighth perfect three-point shooting night of the year, tying his season-high of four.
“When X gives us an extra perimeter shooter, that’s when the floor opens up for our team,” Head coach Kermit Davis said. “It gives more room for [Upshaw and Williams] to play. But I was proud of him, hurting with his mask and the whole thing, so that was a good night for him.”
Upshaw earns most career starts
The four-year senior broke the top-10 in career starts at MTSU earlier this season against Toledo. On Thursday night, however, Upshaw moved into a class of his own as he took ownership of the record. Currently at 106 starts and counting, Upshaw passed long-time Blue Raider great Kevin Kanaskie (2005-2009), whose record was held at 105 for eight years.
During the game, Upshaw also dominated Western Kentucky posts, finishing with 19 points and 11 rebounds.
Tonight’s final stats: pic.twitter.com/0Vs7Olx6Ao
— Tyler Lamb (@Tlamb35) February 17, 2017
The Blue Raiders will take the day off Friday before going toe-to-toe with the Marshall Thundering Herd (14-11, 7-5 C-USA) in Huntington, WV Saturday night at 5 p.m. CT.