Middle Tennessee men’s basketball (11-7, 4-3 C-USA) found a way to win ugly in its 74-73 overtime win over UAB (13-6, 4-4 C-USA) in the first meeting between the two teams since last year’s Conference USA semifinal game.
Deandre Dishman anchored Middle Tennessee down low all night, scoring a hard-fought 15 points while pulling down eight rebounds. Dishman was also 7-for-11 at the free throw line, none bigger than the two he knocked down to give MTSU a one-point lead in the final seconds of overtime to secure the victory.
Three other Blue Raiders scored in double-figures as Eli Lawrence (13), Camryn Weston (11) and Teafale Lenard. Jr (10) all made timely plays to keep Middle Tennessee in the game.
Middle Tennessee’s ability to win games in an ugly fashion has proven to be one of its calling cards for most of the season. The Blazers outrebounded MTSU 54-41, including 27-9 on the offensive boards, and attempted 19 more shots but the Blue Raiders swatted 12 shots that led to multiple fastbreak opportunities.
“I thought our guys kept battling,” Middle Tennessee head coach Nick McDevitt said of his team. “We stayed mentally tough. I thought we stayed together and had that next-play mentality. We needed a big stop and we were able to get it.”
The Blazers were without its Wooden Award watch list member Jordan Walker, the second leading scorer in the country at 23.8 points per game. His absence left room for other Blazers to get more shot attempts than they usually would.
Dishman had to wrestle with UAB big man Trey Jemison all night. Jemison is every bit of 6’11” and 260 pounds and caused a problem for the Blue Raiders around the rim and on the glass.
“It’s really tough to prepare for him when you’re not going up against that in practice,” Dishman said. “Once I get on the court, I just know that I need to be tough and be physical with him even though he’s a lot bigger and a lot taller.”
UAB went on a 9-0 run between the end of regulation and the start of overtime, taking a five-point lead early in the extra frame. Lawrence’s second block of the night set up the final possession for MTSU when Dishman knocked down the deciding free throws.
Up next, Middle Tennessee will host the Charlotte 49ers in the Murphy Center on Thursday. The Blue Raiders lost the first contest in Charlotte 82-67 on Dec. 29.
Calvin White is the sports editor for MTSU Sidelines. If you have any information for a story, you can contact him at email@example.com.