Strong defensive showing not enough

Yates scores 16 in 62-51 loss

January 2, 2008 · MT Media Relations
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. - Middle Tennessee dug itself an early deficit against Western Kentucky and, despite a strong second half comeback, was not able to overcome the tough start on the way to a 62-51 setback at Diddle Arena Wednesday.

Desmond Yates led the Blue Raiders with a game-high 16 points, while Demetrius Green netted 11 and Nigel Johnson finished with 10. Theryn Hudson, who has been one of the Sun Belt's most productive big men over the last four games, did not have a strong offensive night with just four points but he did establish a new career best with a game-high 13 rebounds.

Defense was not the problem as Middle Tennessee (4-9, 1-2) held the Hilltoppers (10-4, 2-0) 17 points below their 79.3 point-per-game average. The 62 points were the second fewest for WKU this season after it scored 61 in a loss at Northern Arizona earlier in the campaign.

Sophomore guard Darren Avery earned his second start of the season and drew the tough assignment of guarding the Hilltoppers' Courtney Lee, who scored just six points - 15.4 points below his 21.4-point-per game average. When Avery wasn't in the game, Green drew the assignment.

"If you hold Western Kentucky to 62 points and (Lee) scores just six you sure hope you can win the game," Middle Tennessee coach Kermit Davis said. "We had a great chance tonight and we certainly are disappointed in this loss because we had a good game plan and, offensively, we got the ball where we wanted it. We just didn't hit open shots."

The Blue Raiders fell behind 16-5 nine minutes into the game and managed just five field goals in the first half on the way to a 35-19 halftime deficit. Middle Tennessee came out strong in the second half and cut the deficit to eight, 39-31, on Yates' layup with 14:42 remaining. Even after the Hilltoppers extended their advantage back to 48-34 with 11:34 remaining, Middle Tennessee had cut the lead to 10 on three occasions and had possession but it went on a six-minute scoreless drought with nine minutes remaining as Western Kentucky pulled away for good.

It certainly was a game of two halves as WKU outscored Middle Tennessee, 19-15, off turnovers but the Blue Raiders owned a 12-5 advantage in that statistical category in the second half when they played themselves back into the game.

Middle Tennessee will return home for Sun Belt action when it plays host to Denver Saturday at 7 p.m. The Pioneers are off to a 2-0 start in league play with wins against North Texas and Louisiana-Monroe.

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