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Dean Leads Comeback in 78-75 OT Victory

January 24, 2004 · MT Media Relations
NEW ORLEANS, La. - Middle Tennessee's Mike Dean scored 20 points after halftime, including a driving lay-up in traffic with 2.6 seconds remaining, and Tommy Gunn nailed two technical foul shots, giving the Blue Raiders a 78-75 overtime victory over homestanding New Orleans Saturday night at Lakefront Arena.

The Blue Raiders (11-6, 3-1 Sun Belt) battled back late in the second half, falling behind by as many as 10 and trailing 65-58 with 3:33 left in the game. But Dean was unstoppable after halftime, netting 18 points in the second half.

Michael Cuffee hit a driving lay-up through the lane to cut the U NO (9-9, 3-2) lead to five before Kyle Young's turnaround lay-up the next time down the floor off an assist from Bryan Smithson. A Dean three-pointer with 1:33 left knotted the game at 65.

Dean drove to the basket and was fouled, knocking down both foul shots for the lead with 51.7 seconds left. But UNO's Bo McCalebb's driving shot off the glass tied the score at 67. The Blue Raiders had one last chance at the end of regulation, but Dean's shot was blocked in the lane.

In overtime, Gunn scored seven of Middle Tennessee's 11 points, including a bucket plus the foul on the opening possession of the extra period. Cuffee added a wing jumper in OT, as the Blue Raiders never trailed.

Dean ended the game with 23 points and Gunn had a season-high 27, going 10-for-11 from the foul line, including 5-of-5 in overtime. Dean was 5-for-9 on three-pointers, while Cuffee scored a season-high 18, going 7-of-11 from the field.

Gunn played the final nine-plus minutes of regulation and the overtime with foul personal fouls. The Privateers began the second half with a 20-9 run to erase a two-point deficit and take a lead they would not relinquish until Dean's two free throws in the final minute.

Middle Tennessee cut the lead to two at 60-58 with 6:04 left, but UNO got three straight offensive rebounds before a long rebound bounced all the way to the three-point line where Billy McDade knocked down the trifecta.

But the Blue Raiders continued to battle and the hard work paid off, a big win keeping the squad in first place in the Eastern Division in the Sun Belt.

The Blue Raiders started the game on fire, bolting to a 23-7 lead in the first nine minutes. But an 18-2 run by the Privateers cut the lead to three over the next six minutes and Middle Tennessee to a 43-32 lead into halftime thanks to 13 points from Gunn and 10 by Cuffee.

Middle Tennessee's pair of victories marks the first road conference sweep since joining the Sun Belt, three-plus years.

The Blue Raiders return home Thursday with a 7 p.m. contest against New Mexico State at Murphy Center.

GAME NOTES The Blue Raiders have hit a three-pointer in 234 straight games ... Senior Tommy Gunn has been a hot starter this season and continued the run in tonight's game, scoring 13 points in the opening 20 minutes. Gunn is averaging 9.7 points per game in the first half this season.

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