Photo by David Chamberlain / MTSU Sidelines
After a tornado warning that sent fans and media into the tunnels of Murphy Center Saturday and delayed tip-off for a little over 30 minutes, the Blue Raiders (11-20, 8-10) experienced some senior night magic against the UTEP Miners (8-21, 3-15). Head coach Nick McDevitt started all four seniors (Karl Gamble, James Hawthorne, Lawrence Mosley and Chase Miller) that were honored before the game.
Miller, the long-time walk-on and fan favorite, made an instant impact as he drilled a 3-pointer from the right wing on the first play of the game, sending the crowd into a frenzy.
“The play was called for me, and I knew my teammates would yell at me if I didn’t shoot it,” Miller said after the game. “I was kind of nervous, and I just looked back at the four years and how hard I have worked for that moment and I thought the rest would pay off. I’m just lucky that it really did.”
Mosley, a fellow senior walk-on, connected on his first 3-point attempt as well to give the Blue Raiders a 6-2 advantage in the early moments of the game.
“I just enjoyed the process and enjoyed the journey,” Mosley said. “I thank the coach and all the coaches as well as the players for just accepting me as a walk-on and giving me the opportunity to be able to do what I’m doing.”
After the first two three’s by Blue Raider walk-ons, the game slowed up, and the scoring became scarce. MT led by as many as nine with 15:12 left in the opening half when an old fashioned 3-point play by Hawthorne gave the Blue Raiders an 11-2 lead.
UTEP found a way to keep the game in single digits despite their putrid shooting performance in the first half. The Miners shot 20 percent from the field and only 14 percent from beyond the perimeter, yet only trailed by a score of 25-18 going into halftime.
In the second half, it was the Blue Raiders who seemingly couldn’t buy a bucket. MT shot worse in the second half than UTEP did in the first as they only managed to connect on 24 percent of their shots from the field and 12.5 percent of their attempts from three-point range.
Despite the shooting struggles, the Blue Raiders managed to keep the lead for the entire second half until UTEP finally tied things up with 3:32 left to play when guard Evan Gilyard knocked down a three-pointer following a flagrant foul call on Hawthorne. This was the first time these teams were tied since Miller’s three on the first possession.
On the ensuing possession, Blue Raider guard Junior Farquhar knocked down a short range jumper to regain the lead by a score of 46-44.
The Blue Raiders clung to a one-point lead with 20 seconds when Antonio Green’s floater was swatted by Jordan Lathon which led to the ball going out of bounds and MT retaining possession. On the ensuing inbound play, Reggie Scurry and Jayce Johnson both failed to connect on shot attempts around the basket and with eight seconds left, UTEP guard Nigel Hawkins grabbed the rebound and called a timeout.
With only eight seconds remaining, Lathon misses a pull-up jumper from the top of the key which resulted in a Hawthorne rebound. Hawthorne was promptly fouled and sent to the free-throw line with one and two tenths of a second remaining.
Hawthorne missed both free throw attempts and with only one second on the clock, UTEP called a timeout to set up one last play to try to win the game.
Gamble deflected the following inbound pass and time expired before the Miners had a chance to get a shot off, resulting in a 48-47 Blue Raider victory.
“I’m really happy for our seniors and for our team,” McDevitt said after the win.
Four Blue Raider seniors win their final game at Murphy Center
Gamble, Hawthorne, Mosley and Miller were honored before the game as they played their final home game of their MTSU careers. For Gamble, the win is a perfect way to cap off his four year experience in Murfreesboro.
“I would sum (my career) up as a learning experience. I started off not playing much and had to rebuild my self-confidence. But I’m pretty satisfied with the ending even with the new coaching staff,” Gamble said. “It felt great because last year we didn’t win on senior night so this feels pretty good.”
The Blue Raiders secured the 12-seed in next week’s C-USA Tournament and will play UAB for the third time this season next Wednesday at 6:30 in Frisco, Texas. The Blue Raiders won both match-ups with UAB in the regular season.
To contact Sports Editor David Chamberlain, email email@example.com.