Featured photo by Matt Posey
Story by Calvin White
Frisco, TX- Against all odds, the Middle Tennessee men’s basketball team gave the No. 1 seeded FAU Owls a run for its money but fell just short in a 68-65 loss to the Owls in the semifinal round of the Conference USA Tournament at The Ford Center.
After trailing 37-25 at halftime due to a poor-shooting first half, the Blue Raiders (19-14) started the second half on fire. Elias King hit two 3-pointers to jumpstart MTSU but FAU (30-3) made tough baskets the entire half. The scoreboard read 57-57 with 3:31 to play.
FAU held a four-point lead with 13 seconds remaining until Justin Bufford nailed a 3-pointer while being fouled for a chance to tie the game at the free throw line. Bufford missed the foul shot but MTSU knocked the ball out of bounds off of FAU to get one last shot to try and win the game. Deandre Dishman’s jump-hook attempt rimmed out and FAU secured the rebound after Dishman’s second attempt was blocked, making the free throws to secure the win.
In what could be his final game as a Blue Raider, Dishman led MTSU with 17 points and 11 rebounds for his fourth double-double of the season while Elias King scored 13 points on three 3-pointers in the second half. Eli Lawrence scored eight points off the bench with an injured ankle.
Middle Tennessee scored 21 second chance points off of 15 offensive rebounds but managed to only score six points off of turnovers after turning FAU over 11 times. MTSU outscored the Owls in bench points 16-12. FAU entered the contest leading the country in bench scoring at 36 points per game.
“You’re battling through a lot of adversity,” MTSU hea coach Nick McDevitt said. “You’ve got a lot of guys playing hurt, the ones we know about and the ones that some don’t know about that are playing through some pain. To go out there and give yourself a chance to win through that, through some foul trouble, through being down double digits. I just was really proud of their fight, and how hard they played and how together they played. There at the end, sometimes the ball just doesn’t bounce your way.”
The Blue Raiders have bene invited to postseason play but will decide if they will accept the invitation at a later date.
“We’ve got some guys that have been banged up for weeks now,” McDevitt said. “We’re certainly honored and flattered to be invited to postseason play. Obviously, you’ve had to have a good four months to be invited to do something like that. But we really do need to evaluate where our players are at this point in the year.”
Calvin White is the sports editor for MTSU Sidelines. If you have information for a story, you can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.