Blue Raiders Fall Victim to UNCG 70-58November 30, 2002 · MT Media Relations
Greensboro, N.C. -- Center Napoleon Rhodes turned in his best game of his short Middle Tennessee career against UNC-Greensboro, but his 16 points and 20 rebounds were not enough to propel the Blue Raiders to their first road win.
The Blue Raiders (1-3) never found an offensive rhythm in the 70-58 loss to the Spartans (3-1). In fact, Middle Tennessee found itself behind 14 with 6:45 remaining the first half behind hot shooting James Maye, who scored eight points during that span.
From there, the Blue Raiders made a rally as the half wound to a close. Three-point goals from Keith Connor and William Pippen aided the Middle Tennessee cause and gave the team some momentum as the game headed toward the halfway mark.
UNCG got Maye involved again as he drilled a trey with 1:36 left in the period to push the lead back to 12 at 34-22.
A Tommy Gunn dunk with 0:53 left cut the lead back to 10, but Tizzo Johnson hit a layup with 0:30 remaining in the half to give the Spartans a 36-24 advantage at the intermission.
The Blue Raiders started the second half on a 6-0 run to cut the lead to 38-32 following Gunn's lone trey of the game. However, the Spartans would recover and eventually increase their previous lead.
UNCG would connect on four three-pointers in the next eight minutes to keep the Blue Raiders at bay and pushing the lead to 59-45 with 7:35 left in the contest. From that point, the Blue Raiders would draw no closer than 11 points.
"We just got beat by a more efficient team," said Blue Raider head coach Kermit Davis. "They were more physical than we were. They did a better job running offense and took us out of some things. I thought the first five or six minutes we may have made some shots, but we stood defensively and we didn't do a very good job of moving without the ball."
Davis' team was marred by a season-low performance at the free throw line and from behind the three-point line. The Blue Raiders, who came into the game shooting 74.5 percent from the charity stripe, made only 14-of-28 from the line in the game. The team also shot poorly from three-point land, netting only 4-of-21 attempts for 19 percent.
Davis said, "We tried to compete and make a run and cut it to six or seven. When you go 14-of-28 from the free throw line and 4-of-21 from three, it's hard to win a lot of games on the road."
Maye paced the Spartans with 16 points and Ronnie Burrell did the damage on the boards with 12 rebounds.
The Blue Raiders' road certainly doesn't get any easier from here. The team returns to action on Wednesday night in the Murphy Center against former OVC rival Tennessee Tech, a team that put together a quarterfinal run in the NIT a year ago. Tip off is slated for 7 PM.
Rebounding Rhodes: Center Napoleon Rhodes showed why he was such a highly-touted recruit out of Central Florida Community College against the Spartans. The Ocala, FL, native turned in his first career double figure scoring game with 16 points and first double figure rebounding game with 20. His double-double is the first of the year for the Blue Raiders.
Tobacco Road East: Middle Tennessee has become a regular around the state of North Carolina in recent years. The Blue Raiders have played at least one game against a North Carolina-based squad in seven straight seasons and eight of the last nine.
Continuing to hit the Boards: Despite coming up short on the score, the Blue Raiders claimed their third victory of the season on the backboards. East Carolina is the only team to snare more rebounds than MT this year.
Humphrey Homecoming: John Humphrey played in front of a large contingency of family and friends in Greensboro. His hometown of Swansboro is about 215 miles away, but the Hump Fan Club was in full effect tonight. The game also marked the second time in his career that Humphrey has played in his home state since donning the Blue Raider uniform.
Hailey in the House: Former Blue Raider Lucious "Buck" Hailey was in attendance tonight as the Blue Raiders did battle with UNCG. Hailey came to the team's shootaround this morning and Coach Davis made sure to introduce him to the team. For those who don't remember, Hailey was on the 1982 squad that defeated Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament. He also produced a huge block in the waining seconds of the OVC Tournament in Bowling Green that preserved an MT lead and sent the team dancing. Hailey now coaches high school basketball near Greensboro.
Follow the Blue Raiders on Twitter @MTAthletics for continued updates.
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