Story by Calvin White / Contributing Writer
FRISCO, TX — 25 points and nine rebounds from Deandre Dishman was not enough for Middle Tennessee to put UAB away in the semifinal round of the Conference-USA tournament. It took three overtime periods for the game to finish with the Blazers ultimately defeating the Blue Raiders 102-98.
“I was really proud of their toughness and their effort,” Middle Tennessee head coach Nick McDevitt said. “We played hard and it’s hard to win these games. I feel for them.”
After coming up big in yesterday’s overtime win over UTEP, Dishman posted another outstanding stat line of 25 points and nine rebounds while getting UAB’s big men in foul trouble.
“He was awesome,” McDevitt said. “I am really proud of him. He was a man out there today. Not just with his 25 and nine but with the way he had to guard their post players while playing the majority of the game. He’s old enough and experienced enough to know if he’s got an advantage.”
Dishman, along with Donovan Sims (21), Teafale Lenard (13), Eli Lawrence (15), and Camryn Weston (17) all finished in double figure scoring. Both teams shot nearly identical, with MT shooting 32-78 (41%) and UAB shooting 31-71 (44%).
A back and forth first half ended with UAB taking a 35-31 lead into the locker room. UAB’s Jordan Walker, the conference player of the year, was held to just nine points in the half.
True freshman Teafale Lenard made his presence known on both ends of the court, blocking shots off the backboard and throwing down monstrous dunks.
In their first “normal” season since covid first struck, the Blue Raiders posted an overall record of 23-10 after being picked to finish last in the conference preseason poll. McDevitt was very thankful for all the support that he and his team received throughout the season.
“It was great just having people back in the Murphy Center. Last year was awful and it was a hard year for a lot of reasons,” McDevitt said. “Playing in the Murphy Center with nobody there is hard. Seeing our team enjoy the season that they did, having fans back in the stands, celebrating a regular season championship with them on the floor after that Western Kentucky game. I just really appreciate everything and the people back home and the people that traveled down here. It’s not easy. Spending money, spending time, it’s a lot of effort and it’s a long way away from Murfreesboro and to the people that made the trip, it means a lot.”
McDevitt’s team does not know if their season is over or not or if they will be invited to play in any other postseason tournaments.
“Guys this time of year are ready to go on spring break or they’re not ready for it to be over and unfortunately we have a lot of guys that want to keep playing,” McDevitt said. “We’re just going to kind of decompress. When you feel like you’re that close to winning a championship and the right to go to an NCAA tournament, you try not to come in the locker room and talk about other plans.”