Men’s Basketball: Blue Raiders weather Mars Hill offensive flurry and fend off upset bid


Antonio Green drives to the bucket during MTSU's 96-82 win over Mars Hill on Wednesday night. (Photo by Kaitlyn Hungerford/ MTSU Sidelines)

Murfreesboro, TN- It took awhile, about 30 game minutes to be exact, for Middle Tennessee State (3-0) to pull away from Division II opponent Mars Hill, but they eventually did on Wednesday night. The 96-82 win wasn’t pretty at times but a win is a win and history was made as this is the 500th win for the Blue Raiders at Murphy Center.

The Blue Raiders battled with Mars Hill early as both teams were tied at 13 at the first media timeout. Following the short break, Blue Raider star and walking bucket Antonio Green decided to catch fire and knock down a pair of three’s to push MTSU to a 28-16 lead. Green’s three-point shooting was the theme of the first half as he finished the first frame with 25 points on 10/14 shooting from the field and 5/8 shooting from beyond the arc.

Despite the offensive success that MTSU enjoyed in the opening half, the same could not be reciprocated on the defensive end. Mars Hill remained within eight points of the Blue Raiders at halftime with the help of a 7/14 three-point shooting performance as a team.

MTSU struggled to contain the Mars Hill scoring attack to begin half number two. The visitors from North Carolina made seven consecutive shots from the field and after an Austin Gilyard layup and free throw, took the lead by a score of 58-57 with 15 minutes remaining.

The Blue Raiders responded with a small five point scoring run as a result of a pair of C.J. Jones free throws and a three-pointer. Mars Hill promptly called a timeout and Blue Raider head coach Nick McDevitt responded by going over to each side of the court and trying to hype up the crowd by yelling and waving his hands in an attempt to get his team to play with a little more energy.

“We had no energy,” McDevitt said. “I thought our team was a little lackluster and you could feel that there just wasn’t life in the building and a lot of that was due to what we’re doing on the floor.”

It worked. The emotional display had a visible effect on his team, specifically Green.

“It got us fired up,” Green said. “You can’t not go play hard after seeing your coach doing that…we picked it up once he did that.”

The emotional outburst sparked MTSU to go on a run of six consecutive made buckets and pushed the lead to as many as 16 points with 6:12 remaining. The Blue Raiders cruised to a win after that run by a score of 96-82.

Despite the loss, Mars Hill got stand out performances from both Gilyard (34 points and nine rebounds) and Jamal Bryant (27 points and 11 rebounds).

To make the win sweeter for the Blue Raiders, their four turnovers were tied for the fewest in a game in program history.

Big night for Green.

Last season’s leading scorer was at it again on Wednesday night as he put up 31 points 25 in the first half) on 12/19 shooting from the field and 5/9 shooting from three-point range.

“I was just taking shots, making shots and running hard,” Green said.

Eli Lawrence is chairman of the board.

Freshman forward Eli Lawrence finished the game with his first career double-double (13 points and 10 rebounds) and was promptly given the “Chairman of the Board” award (a plank painted in MTSU colors given by the Blue Raider who grabs over 10 rebounds in a game and leads the team) by McDevitt after the game.

Lawrence was proud of his achievement after the game.

“It feels good to get this award,” Lawrence said. “If you just play hard, everything is going to work itself out.”

What’s next?

The undefeated Blue Raiders will fly to Conway, South Carolina on Sunday ahead of their Monday match-up against the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers.

To contact Sports Editor Elijah Campbell, email sports@mtsusidelines.com.

For more sports stories, follow us on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines and on Twitter and Periscope at @Sidelines_Sport.

To contact Sports Editor Elijah Campbell, email sports@mtsusidelines.com.

For more sports stories, follow us on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines and on Twitter and Periscope at @Sidelines_Sport.

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