Photo by Tyler Lamb / Sports Editor
The Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (20-4, 10-1) carried a 10-game winning streak into tonight’s matchup with the University of Texas-El Paso Miners. Despite holding a 17-point lead early in the second half, the Blue Raiders couldn’t muster up enough offense in the end, losing their first conference game 57-54 to the Miners.
Early in the game, it was all JaCorey Williams, as the senior forward scored the first six points for the Blue Raiders. The defense handled the UTEP offense with ease in the first half, holding them to just 16 points on 20.8 percent shooting from the floor. The MT defense held the Miners to only two points in the final 4:12 of the first half.
The second half began with the Blue Raiders jumping all over the Miners, taking their largest lead of the game at 39-22 with 14:08 left to play. This was where the struggles began for the Middle Tennessee offense.
UTEP strung together a quick 11-0 run to get within 39-33, before Williams scored a layup to push the lead back to eight. The lead was back to double figures after a Tyrik Dixon three made it 44-33. After a Brandon Walters layup made it 48-38, the Miners reeled off 13-0 run to take a 51-50 lead with 2:09 left in the game. A Williams jumper gave MT the lead again before UTEP took it right back in the final minute.
Williams was fouled and sent to the line with 37 seconds left. He made both to give MT a 54-53 lead. The Blue Raiders appeared to get a stop but a foul was called on Reggie Upshaw to send Omega Harris to the line with 22 seconds left. He made both to give UTEP the final lead of the game. After two more Miner free throws, MT had a final chance to send the game to OT but a Giddy Potts three fell just short, leaving the Blue Raiders with a tough 57-54 loss.
Williams posted a double-double of 24 points and 10 rebounds. Brandon Walters was the only other Blue Raider to score in double figures, pouring in ten points off the bench. Upshaw, averaging over 14 points a game, failed to record a single point tonight in a heartbreaking loss to the Miners.
The Blue Raiders will head back to Murfreesboro and hit the practice gym for a few days before welcoming the Old Dominion Monarchs into the Murphy Center on Thursday at 7 p.m.