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Roberts' last-second shot lifts Warhawks past Blue Raiders

Middle Tennessee falls, 67-65, in SBC opener

December 17, 2006 · MT Media Relations
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - Brandon Roberts connected on a 15-foot fadaway with 1.6 seconds remaining to lift visiting Louisiana-Monroe to a 67-65 win against Middle Tennessee in its first game as a member of the Sun Belt Conference at Murphy Center Sunday afternoon.

Roberts' game-winner, just his second of the game, came just seconds after Desmond Yates scored a game-tying layup on a set play out of a timeout with 10 seconds remaining and drew the foul to even the score 65-65; however, Yates missed the free throw and Roberts converted on the other end. Yates' miss at the charity stripe was the only misfire for the Blue Raiders at the free-throw line in 12 attempts.

Blue Raider point guard Kevin Kanaskie scored a career-high 20 points, dished out six assists, and collected three steals to lead Middle Tennessee (4-5, 0-1). Yates finished with 16 points, giving him four straight double-figure scoring games. The remaining members of the squad combined for 29 points in the setback.

While Roberts provided the heroics for Louisiana-Monroe (5-6, 1-0) it was guard Jordan Payne providing the fireworks. Payne scored a career-high 27 points on 9-of-13 shooting from the field in just 26 minutes of action to pace the Warhawks. He scored 14 of his 27 in the second half.

Middle Tennessee led 59-55 with 4:29 remaining following a jumper by Tim Blue and the Blue Raider defense forced a stop on the other end when Roberts misfired on a 3-pointer. The Warhawks ran down not one, but two, offensive rebounds and eventually got a 3-pointer from Lance Brasher to pull the visitors to within 59-58 with 3:45 remaining.

Each team traded points on two consecutive possessions and Middle Tennessee led 63-62 when it forced a miss with under 30 seconds remaining but Blue missed the box-out and Afam Nweke corralled the offensive rebound, scored and drew the foul. His successful free-throw put the Warhawks in front, 65-63 with 22 seconds remaining.

Middle Tennessee went to Yates out of the timeout and he delivered to tie the game before missing the free throw that could have put the Blue Raiders on top by one. Roberts answered on the other end to deal the Blue Raiders the gut-wrenching setback.

Middle Tennessee hauled in 17 offensive rebounds and 35 total caroms for the game but it had difficulty scoring on the second chances and shot just 42 percent for the game, while allowing Louisiana-Monroe to shoot 48 percent. The Warhawks came into the contest shooting just 38 percent from the field.

The Blue Raiders also had 21 turnovers, leading to 18 of Louisiana-Monroe's points.

Middle Tennessee steps out of conference play when it travels to Clarksville to face rival Austin Peay Wednesday at 7 p.m.

Middle Tennessee postgame quotes:
Head Coach Kermit Davis
On losing the conference opener to Louisiana Monroe:

"We've had a 13-day layoff with the exception of the exhibition game. I didn't think our practices the last couple of days were as intense as they needed to be. Give Louisiana -Monroe credit, they went small. Our bigs couldn't guard their smalls and our bigs couldn't get the ball around the goal. We had great looks and couldn't get balls in the basket. Louisiana-Monroe beat us to every loose ball. We couldn't guard their dribble penetration throughout the game."

On the team's 21 turnovers:
"A lot of them were unforced. I don't see how Nigel Johnson could have a worse play-making game than what he did. Every one of his turnovers was unforced. About five or six of them led to baskets on the other end. Like the very last play, we are up one or two and are trying to run the set play and he doesn't hear it and throws it over Kevin's [Kanaskie] head. We had a lot of unforced errors. Kevin had four turnovers. All of our inside guys had three turnovers against a team that's not a real physical pressing team."

On the perimeter play of Louisiana Monroe:
"I was disappointed in Kyle [Young]. We had some things we were trying to work on in the game plan. We didn't get it early on. Kyle has to do that part of it for us. I like Kyle's intensity on the boards. We gave them a couple of threes early. We just couldn't stop [Jordan] Payne. He jumped all over us anytime he wanted the basket. We couldn't get any rhythm defensively."

On the play of Jordan Payne:
"I thought it was a couple of close foul calls on two 3-point shots. A lot of good players kick their legs out a little bit. We put him on the line. He is averaging 10 points a game. We had him scouted and playing him the right way. We just couldn't get to him."

On the play of Tim Blue:
"I was disappointed in the way he practiced the last couple of days. He had a lot of turnovers in his game and it doesn't surprise me."

On regrouping after the tough loss:
"It's a marathon. There are a lot of conference games left. It's a tough loss for us at home. We've got to regroup. The best thing about college basketball is in three days we play again."

On playing Austin Peay on Wednesday:
"It's a good rivalry game. Dave [Loos] does a really good job. They are just what they [Louisiana Monroe] are. They've got good toughness and we got to get our team tougher in the next couple of days."

Middle Tennessee Guard Kevin Kanaskie
On the loss to Louisiana-Monroe:
"It's a pretty big set back. We knew the conference games would be close, but you always want to win at home. We had a whole week to practice and prepare for them, but we didn't execute."

On the highs and lows of the season:
"Hopefully, we can get back to the highs. We play in two days. We don't have too much time to think about tonight."

On the open looks from 3-point territory given up by Middle Tennessee:
"Our transition defense needs to get better. We need to work on locating the shooters and know who the shooters are and who the shooters aren't."

Middle Tennessee Forward Desmond Yates:
On the play at the end of the second half:
"Coach called my name in the huddle and said he wanted me to take the last shot. So we came down and executed and I hit the last shot. Unfortunately, I went to the line and missed the free throw. They came down and I let my man hit the game winning shot. He was my man."

On the game winning shot:
"If he had more of hand in his face, he wouldn't have gotten it off in the first place. It was a good shot on his behalf."

Louisiana-Monroe Guard Jordan Payne:
On Louisiana-Monroe's progress this season:
"We have been changing our practices by going harder everyday. We focus on everyone as a team and not the individual. Hopefully we can keep winning."

On the confidence taken from tonight's game:
"This is great for our confidence. We were picked last in the Sun Belt Conference, so it proves we can win in the conference. It was big to quite all the talk about us."

POSTGAME NOTES:
CAREER GAME FOR KANASKIE:
Middle Tennessee point guard Kevin Kanaskie enjoyed a career game offensively with the first 20-point outing. The sophomore poured in a career-best 20 points on 6-for-10 shooting while also connecting on a personal-best four three-pointers. Kanaskie also handed out six assists to give him 14 over his last two games.

FOUR IN A ROW: Since being reinstated into the starting lineup against Belmont, freshman Desmond Yates has been the team's most consistent offensive threat. During the four-game span, Yates has been in double figures each game and has averaged 17.0 points in the four outings. Yates, who had 16 points in the setback to ULM, is shooting 53.1 percent from the field during the four games to go along with 4.3 rebounds.

SOLID AT THE LINE: The Blue Raiders came into the Louisiana-Monroe game shooting a disappointing 63.7 percent from the free throw line but turned things around against the Warhawks. Middle Tennessee made 11 of its 12 attempts at the charity stripe for a season-best percentage of 91.7. The lone miss was the last attempt of the night by Desmond Yates which would have put the Blue Raiders up one with 11 seconds to play.

STRONG ON THE BOARDS: Senior Kyle Young turned in his seventh double figure rebounding game of his career when he hauled in a game-high 10 caroms in just 27 minutes against the Warhawks. It marked the 25th time in his career Young has paced the Blue Raiders in rebounding.

QUICK HITTERS: Middle Tennessee had 23 made field goals and collected an impressive 18 assists ... Nigel Johnson equaled his career-best with four assists ... Tim Blue had a game-high three blocked shots to equal his season and career-high ... The Blue Raider bench was outscored by ULM's bench, 30-9 ... MT had a 17 to 9 edge on the offensive glass against ULM ... MT fell to 3-4 overall in Sun Belt Conference openers ... The loss to ULM was the Blue Raiders' first setback at home this season ... MT hit a season-best eight three-pointers today against ULM.

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