Photo by Joi Williams / MTSU Sidelines
Story by Darius Horton / Sports Reporter
Middle Tennessee Head Coach Kermit Davis achieved his 400th win last weekend in an 87-70 victory at Louisiana Tech. Even though this was most recent milestone for Davis, he has more wins in his career that have carried him to this point, and put MTSU on the college athletics map.
Davis’s career started at Idaho, and was followed by a year-long stint at Texas A&M. He arrived in Murfreesboro in 2002 and has turned the Blue Raiders into a mid-major powerhouse with wins over storied programs and heated rivals. Middle Tennessee added to that list of achievements on Monday when it was announced that they cracked the Associated Press Top 25 rankings for the first time in school history.
Heading into a crucial match-up with the University of Alabama-Birmingham Blazers on Saturday, here are five of the most notable wins in Davis’ career.
1. Davis records first career win as a head coach
The first game on this list is his very first win as the man in charge. Davis took over the Idaho program in 1988 and on Nov.12 of that year, he earned a 76-50 win over Simon Fraser for his first career victory.
Davis spent two years at Idaho, and managed to make the NCAA Tournament as 13-seeds both years. He compiled a 50-12 record overall, and was named the Big Sky Coach of the Year in 1989.
Though he left after his second year for a job with Texas A&M, Davis returned to Idaho in 1996 and stayed for one more year.
2. 87-77 win over UT-Martin gives Davis his first victory for MTSU
On Nov. 27, 2002, Davis recorded his first victory as the Middle Tennessee head coach with an 87-77 decision over the University of Tennessee-Martin Skyhawks. The game didn’t get off to a great start however, as the Blue Raiders trailed 11-2 in the first four minutes of the game.
Middle Tennessee battled back into the game and by the time halftime rolled around, they found themselves with a three-point lead that they would not relinquish. Tommy Gunn was a major player for MTSU in this game, as he scored 29 points and made several key buckets late in the game to help seal the victory.
Not only was this the first win as a Blue Raider for Davis, but it was also his first win inside Murphy Center. While many now see the program he has helped build and the heights it has reached, this was the game that started it all.
3. Davis helps Middle Tennessee break losing streak to Western Kentucky
One thing that a head coach can do to win over a new fanbase is defeating a long-time rival. The Blue Raiders were heavy underdogs when they played Western Kentucky in Davis’ first year, but they managed to shock everyone and pull off the upset by a final score of 69-65.
In the win, Davis managed to do something that hadn’t been done for over 20 years, and that was winning a game against the Hilltoppers. It was the first win for Middle Tennessee over WKU since 1982, and it has since created the most competitive rivalry in both the Sun Belt Conference and Conference USA.
Gunn was crucial yet again, as he scored 17 points on 7-12 shooting in the victory.
4. Middle Tennessee makes history in tournament win over Minnesota
In 2016-17, MTSU set out to prove that their 2015-16 season wasn’t a fluke and that they could dominate the conference yet again. They did just that by recording a program-record 17 wins in conference play and a 30-4 record overall. In the process, Davis was named the Conference USA Coach of the Year.
After defeating Marshall in the Conference USA Tournament Championship, they were matched with the Minnesota Golden Gophers as a 12-seed. After falling behind 7-0 early, the Blue Raiders stormed back and carried a 37-31 lead into halftime.
Middle continued their onslaught in the second half, as they built a 17-point lead behind the play of Reggie Upshaw and JaCorey Williams. Though the Gophers managed to trim the lead down to four, Upshaw scored seven straight points to hold them off for an 81-72 victory. With the win, the Blue Raiders became the first team ever to win a game as a 12-seed or lower over a Power 5 team.
5. Blue Raiders become bracket-busters in 2016
Many will remember it as the win that changed the program.
When the 15-seeded Blue Raiders were matched up with the second-seeded Michigan State Spartans in 2016, many looked at that game as a mere stepping stone for the Spartans in their march for the Final Four. Instead, it proved to be their downfall as Middle Tennessee took a poetic 15-2 lead early and never looked back in a 90-81 win.
All five starters recorded double figures in points and they managed to keep the Spartans from overtaking them. The most impressive aspect of this game is the fact that Michigan State never held a lead, showing that the spotlight wasn’t too much for MTSU.
With this win, Davis established Middle Tennessee as a premier mid-major program and allowed them to continue building into national brand.
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