Story by Quenterious Mabone / Contributing Writer
In their final home game of the regular season, the Blue Raiders men’s basketball team achieved a 69-52 win over the second seed Western Kentucky Hilltoppers on Saturday to win the Conference USA East Division Title.
The game was a low scoring affair, with both teams emphasizing defense throughout the game. The bench, however, was the difference maker for the Blue Raiders. Head Coach Nick McDevitt praised his team on one of the most exciting days of the season.
“That was an emotional game, head coach Nick McDevitt said. “Just a lot of things going on leading up to the game, senior day, the winning streak that we’ve got at home, trying to win the East Division, you’re playing your rival. I thought our team did a pretty nice job of not getting too overly excited.”
The Blue Raiders commanded a 39-30 lead in the first half. They knocked down seven threes, breaking WKU’s diamond-and-1 defense on graduate student Josh Jefferson. Two of the triples made came from sophomore Eli Lawrence while freshman Teafale Lenard Jr. added four points from his transition offense.
In the second half, the Blue Raiders never trailed, despite some decent runs from the Hilltoppers. They locked up on defense down the stretch, holding Hilltopper’s leading scorer, Dayvion McKnight, to 5-for-21 from the field. When
Jamarion Sharp, the 7’5 giant on Western Kentucky, fouled out with 5:03 remaining in the game, the Blue Raiders went on a 14-3 run to put WKU away.
The player who stood out amongst the others was DeAndre Dishman. He finished his senior day with 10 points and seven rebounds. He adjusted brilliantly around Jamarion Sharp to keep the Hilltoppers giant out of the paint.
“He’s blocking for everything, jumping for everything,” Dishman said about how to attack Sharp. “So even when my teammates attack, I know he’s going over to help. Or when I catch the ball, I can get him off his feet, (and try) to use the rim as my protection.”
Another player who stood out was sophomore Camryn Weston. As the bench ace, he became the first ever Middle Tennessee player to record a double-double in which one of the categories was not points. He finished with seven points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists, also becoming the third player in the country this season to have a game with 10 rebounds, 10 assists, and no turnovers.
That’s a big part of my game that I like to do, I like to get my teammates involved in everything,” Weston said. “So, if I see an open man, I’ve just got to hit him. It’s in my nature, pass first.”
The Blue Raiders will end their regular season play with two more games on the road, starting on Wednesday evening at Charlotte at 6 p.m. central.