Smithson, Young Come Up Big As Blue Raiders Turn Back Aggies, 65-50

January 27, 2005 · MT Media Relations
LAS CRUCES, N.M. - Playing its second straight game without leading scorer Mike Dean, Middle Tennessee needed an offensive spark from other sources in order to end a three-game losing streak at New Mexico State Thursday night.

Enter sophomores Bryan Smithson and Kyle Young.

Smithson poured in a season-high 16 points on 8-of-11 shooting, while Young produced a career-high 15 points to lead four Blue Raiders in double figures as Middle Tennessee secured a 65-50 win in front of 4,571 at the Pan American Center.

Middle Tennessee (13-7, 3-3) had four players reach double figures as Steve Thomas produced his second double double of the season with 11 points and 10 rebounds, while Michael Cuffee finished with 11 points. The Blue Raiders almost had a fifth player in double figures with Marcus Morrison finishing with eight.

"I think our team has several offensive weapons and although we miss Mike, we know we have other options," Smithson said. "We compensated for not having him by having other people step up. This was a big win and a much-needed win for our team."

It was a game in which Middle Tennessee continued its road success under third-year Head Coach Kermit Davis. The Blue Raiders notched their 13th league road win in 20 games under Davis and kept alive their streak of not losing consecutive road games since the veteran coach's arrival in Murfreesboro.

"I'm proud of the way our team played tonight," Davis said. "I thought we were very unselfish and we got back to the basics that are what our team is all about - defense and rebounding. I thought our perimeter defense was a key to the win."

Middle Tennessee held the Aggies (5-14, 1-5) to 34 percent shooting from the field, including just 25 percent (7-of-28) in the second half, while winning the rebounding battle, 38-30. The Blue Raiders also were solid in the execution of their halfcourt offense as they shot 51 percent (27-of-53), marking just the fifth time they have hit more than half their shots this season and the first time since blistering the nets for 57 percent in the win against Arkansas-Little Rock.

"I thought we were more unselfish tonight and did a good job getting everyone involved in the offense," Young said. "We were sharp in our execution, made the extra pass and found the open man. It was a team win all around."

Smithson established career highs for field goals made on the strength of his 8-of-11 shooting performance and also tied his career high for rebounds with five. Young had the best game of his Blue Raider career with the 15 points and was most pleased with his 5-of-5 performance from the free-throw line.

Middle Tennessee fell behind 14-8 at the outset but it stormed back and took the lead for good, 18-17, on Morrison's long 3-pointer with 9:37 remaining in the opening half. Smithson went coast to coast and canned a layup at the buzzer to send the Blue Raiders into the half with momentum and a 35-29 at the break.

The Blue Raiders didn't let up in the second half as they stretched the lead to 13, 50-37, with 12:05 remaining when Morrison took an alley-oop from Smithson and jammed it home. The Aggies had a run left in them and battled back to six, 54-48, with 5:15 remaining, but Smithson answered with a jumper and Young scored nine straight points down the stretch to seal the win that pulled Middle Tennessee to within one game of the Sun Belt's East Division lead.

NOTES:Middle Tennessee improved to 2-0 at the Pan American Center under Head Coach Kermit Davis ... The Blue Raiders improved to 9-0 this season when leading at the half and improved to 12-1 when leading with five minutes remaining ... Middle Tennessee kept alive its streak of not losing consecutive road games under Davis ... Mike Dean did not dress for the second straight game with a toe injury ... Sophomore walk-on Chandler Knox dressed for the first time since joining the team last week, but did not play ... Kyle Young has 22 rebounds in his last three games - the best three-game rebounding stretch of his Blue Raider career ... Smithson's 16 points were the second-highest scoring total of his Blue Raider career and were six off his career high of 22 against Wyoming ... Smithson had 17 relatives attend the game.

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