Friday, September 22, 2023

MTSU catches fire in second half to defeat rival Western Kentucky

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Story by Calvin White/Sports Editor

Murfreesboro, TN- Middle Tennessee men’s basketball (9-5, 2-1 C-USA) lit the net on fire in the second half on Saturday at the Murphy Center for a 65-60 win over rival Western Kentucky (8-5, 1-2 C-USA.)

Teafale Lenard Jr. led all scorers with 19 points while adding six rebounds and three assists. Eli Lawrence tallied 13 points and a team-leading 11 rebounds to earn his second career double-double.

After shooting a measly 25 percent from the floor in the first half, the Blue Raiders trailed the Hilltoppers 27-19 at halftime but a 7-0 run to start the second half would get MTSU back in the game.

For a near five minute stretch in the second half, both squads traded baskets from all over the court. MTSU threw multiple alley-oops to Lenard Jr. and shot a blistering 7-for-9 from beyond the arc in the second half to pull away from the Hilltoppers late.

“I thought how hard we were playing, the way we were playing, didn’t affect our energy,” Middle Tennessee head coach Nick McDevitt said. “And that was really important. Those are the moments I think that teams that aren’t very tough, that don’t play very hard, it’s not 27-19 at halftime, it’s 37-19 at halftime. You’re going to have to try to beat a team like that by 20 in a half, and that’s hard to do.”

MTSU outrebounded Western Kentucky 47-36, including 14-6 on the offensive glass. Saturday’s game was the fifth time this season that the Blue Raiders had outrebounded its opponent by 10 or more. The Blue Raiders also recorded 15 assists, 12 coming in the second half.

MTSU has won three straight games and seven of its last 11 against Western Kentucky.

“I feel like that helps us a lot,” Lenard Jr. said of the Blue Raider’s attitude on the court. “That shows maturity because some people put their heads down and give up on the next play but we know we can go score again and stop the other team’s momentum.”

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