Blue Raiders ring in New Year with 67-57 win at TSU

December 31, 2005 · MT Media Relations
NASHVILLE - Middle Tennessee started its New Year's Eve celebration in the early afternoon Saturday, traveling to Nashville and picking up a 67-57 win against Tennessee State in front of 3,159 at the Gentry Center.

The Blue Raiders (7-4) were led by four players in double figures, including Marcus Morrison turning in his fifth career double double with 15 points, 11 rebounds and the senior swingman also dished out four assists for good measure.

Fats Cuyler was again on the mark with a game-high 16 points on the strength of five-of-nine shooting to go with his five assists. Kyle Young continued his torrid start with 12 points on 6-of-7 shooting to raise his Sun Belt-leading field goal percentage to an eye-popping 73 percent, while Tim Blue netted 10 points and matched his career high of seven rebounds.

"This was a big game for us because we needed to bounce back and play well against an in-state rival after the tough loss at home against Austin Peay (Wednesday)," Morrison said. "We've had some challenging practices and we were able to execute some things today that helped us get back in the win column. It's a nice way to celebrate New Year's Eve."

Middle Tennessee appeared to be on its way to a one-sided laugher against the Tigers (2-6), who were playing just their second home game of the season, when it stormed out to a 32-16 halftime lead and put together one of its best 20-minute stretches of defense this season.

The Blue Raiders limited Tennessee State to just five field goals and 17 percent shooting (5-of-29) in the first half, and they held the Tigers without a field goal during a 9:57 stretch to ignite a 17-5 run and seize what appeared to be a comfortable 30-13 lead with 1:53 remaining before intermission.

"We put together a very good half of basketball against a sound team that has played some talented teams to the wire on the road," Middle Tennessee coach Kermit Davis said. "Coach (Cy) Alexander's team was going to come out strong in the second half and we talked about that at the break. They did just that and fortunately we were able to stop their run, answer it, and get away with a good road win for our basketball team."

The Tigers would not go quietly and they used a 20-8 run to close to within 40-36 with 12:30 remaining. Tennessee State whittled the lead to one on two occasions down the stretch, but Cuyler connected on game-changing plays each time.

Tennessee closed to within 51-50 with under five minutes remaining but Cuyler maneuvered through the lane and connected for a short jumper to extend the lead to 53-50. Clarence Mathews answered with a basket on the other end, buy Cuyler was again up the challenge as he drained a long 3-pointer with 2:24 remaining to extend the lead to 56-52 and swing the pendulum back in Middle Tennessee's favor for good.

"Tennessee State is a good team and good teams don't lay down," Cuyler said. "When they got the lead to one we had to step up and make some plays. Fortunately, I was able to hit a couple big shots, we made some stops and we hit key free throws with the game on the line."

The Blue Raiders were six-of-seven from the line down the stretch to turn away any late Tiger runs. Cuyler and Morrison combined to score Middle Tennessee's final 16 points in the final 2:24.

Middle Tennessee returns to action at No. 4-ranked Memphis Wednesday.

NOTES: Middle Tennessee played on New Year's Eve for only the third time in program history, improving to 2-1 on the final day of the calendar year ... Marcus Morrison's 15-point, 11-rebound performance gives him five career double doubles at Middle Tennessee .... Bud Howard recorded a career-high three steals and collected five rebounds against Tennessee State ... Kyle Young has connected on 11 of his last 12 field goal attempts and is shooting 73 percent (52-of-71) from the field. The junior forward is on pace to turn in the highest single-season field goal percentage mark in program history. Former Blue Raider standout Warren Kidd shot 70 percent (173-of-247) in 1990-91, which is the highest single-season mark in program history ... Adam Vogelsberg's consecutive free throws made streak ended at 25 against Tennessee State. He was 4-of-5 and is now 52-of-57 for the season, a 91 percent clip ... Middle Tennessee improved to 6-0 on the season when outshooting the opposition ... Tim Blue matched his career high with seven rebounds.

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