Friday, July 12, 2024

Blue Raiders outlast Auburn in OT thriller at Bridgestone Arena

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Middle Tennessee (6-2) traveled to Nashville, Tennessee to take on the Auburn Tigers (4-2) at Bridgestone Arena, the home of the Nashville Predators. The Blue Raiders would eventually win 88-81 after overcoming a last-second shot by Auburn’s Kareem Canty that sent the game into overtime tied at 73.

The Tigers began the game strong, jumping out to an early 10-5 lead. The Blue Raiders weren’t able to connect on most shots they took, allowing more opportunities for Auburn to increase their lead.

Darnell Harris and Giddy Potts would both collect two fouls in the first half, forcing them to sit much of the first half. Senior Perrin Buford would lead the Blue Raiders at the break with eight points and Ed Simpson dropped six points off of the bench.

The Blue Raiders sprinted out of the gates in the second half, reclaiming the lead from Auburn only four minutes into the second half. Reggie Upshaw got the crowd electrified on an alley-oop from Simpson to bring Middle Tennessee within three.

The Blue Raiders began to play more physical against an Auburn team that was beating them in the paint in the first half. Harris and Upshaw began to catch the ball in the high post, back the defender down, and kick the ball out to the perimeter or score the ball from within five feet.

Auburn was having a tough time offensively feeding their big men in the paint against Harris and Upshaw after Middle Tennessee made some halftime adjustments. The Blue Raiders had a high defensive efficiency against Auburn, even though Canty was shooting lights out. Without the insane shooting of Canty, MTSU could have increased their lead sizably, eliminating the chance of overtime.

The Blue Raiders looked to have things in control with under a minute to play, as they had a five point lead, but a costly turnover by Jaqawn Raymond on an inbounds play almost cost the Blue Raiders the game. Simpson was able to strip the ball away from TJ Dunans, seemingly saving the game for Middle Tennessee.

With a two point lead, Simpson was fouled immediately with a chance to put the game away. Simpson missed the first free throw, and made the second to increase Middle Tennessee’s lead to 73-70.

Canty caught the ball, dribbled up the court, and jacked up a contested three-point shot from beyond the line and drilled the shot to send the game to overtime.

Auburn jumped out to a quick three-point lead in the first minute of overtime, after a couple missed shots by the Blue Raiders. Seconds later, Giddy Potts drove to the hole and scored easily, cutting Middle Tennessee’s deficit to one. Raymond was able to snag a defensive rebound, then draw a foul on the other side of the court. He sunk both free throws, giving MTSU the lead that they would hold for the rest of overtime.

Upshaw was the workhorse for the Blue Raiders, collecting a double-double with 21 points and 13 rebounds in a total of 41 minutes on the court. Potts dropped 18 points, while Harris and Simpson totaled 13 points and Buford scored 12 points.

Up next, the Blue Raiders come home to the Murphy Center to take on the Belmont Bruins (6-4) on December 17 at 6 PM, as the team looks to strengthen their non-conference schedule.

For more Blue Raider sports, follow us at www.mtsusidelines.com, on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines and on Twitter at @Sidelines_Sport.

To contact  Sports Editor Connor Ulrey, email sportseditor@mtsusidelines.com.

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