Murfreesboro, TN- An opening tip at 11 in the morning against a weak opponent seems like a snooze-fest. But thanks to MTSU head coach Nick McDevitt’s fast-paced offense, it turned into a thriller.
The MTSU Blue Raiders (1-0) started slowly, but caught fire in the second half in its opening day win vs Division-III Maryville (0-1) Tuesday afternoon 119-61.
The crowd was jumping and screaming early as the game marked the annual Rutherford County Schools game where kids from around the county come to watch the Blue Raiders.
“(The kids) bring energy and its definitely loud. You have to be good with your hand signals and play calls. And when you look at our schedule with play at some big places with large arenas that can get loud,” McDevitt said.
Maryville jumped on MTSU early with a hot streak from beyond the arc to jump ahead as far as eight points on the Blue Raiders.
But a surge in the final five minutes of the half from senior guard Antonio Green and rim-rattling jams from Arkansas transfer C.J. Jones was enough to give MTSU the lead at halftime 43-37 despite a poor overall performance in the first half.
“I thought our pace was slow. We were doing the right things but moving it too slowly and looked like we were running in mud. Once we started getting stops defensively and started picking up our pace offensively, we started executing properly.” McDevitt said.
But the offense could not be bottled up in the 2nd half with Jones (21), transfer Jo’Vontae Millner (15), and Jayce Johnson (14) helping fill up the scoresheet.
“It felt great to be back and get my first win. I was nervous at first but once I made that first shot, I was back to my normal self.” Jones said.
Antonio Green led all scorers with 30 points thanks to six three-point makes and a perfect record from the charity stripe.
A 25-3 run in the middle of the half meant Maryville were ran off the court after a strong opening 20 minutes. MTSU outscored the Scots 76-24 in the second half. The 119 points is fifth-most points scored by MTSU in a game in school history.
MTSU will have its first road test of the 2019-20 season with a trip to Nashville and Lipscomb on Saturday November 9. The game will tip-off at 3:00 local time.