Middle Tennessee suffers first road loss at UAB

Knight scores 16, Sulton adds 14

December 7, 2011 · Athletic Communications
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Junior guard Marcos Knight netted 16 points and junior forward JT Sulton added 14, but it wasn’t enough as the Middle Tennessee men’s basketball team suffered its first road loss of the season, 66-56, to the UAB Blazers on Wednesday night at Bartow Arena. MT falls to 8-2 on the season while UAB improves to 2-6.

Knight scored nine of his points in the first half, including seven within the first six minutes. He also added two assists, a block and a steal. Bruce Massey also reached double figures with 11 points and chipped in six rebounds, four assists and three steals.

The Blue Raider starters combined for 49 of the MT’s points, as bench-play struggled with just seven points on 3-of-17 shooting compared to the Blazers’ 16 points.

For UAB, Jordan Swing led the way with 15 points, while Preston Purifoy (12), Cameron Moore (11) and Ovie Soko (10) also scored double-figures.

Knight scored seven of the first eight points for the Blue Raiders, opening the game with a triple then hitting back-to-back buckets after a free throw from senior forward LaRon Dendy.

With the game tied at six at the 16:38 mark, UAB went on a 19-4 run to stretch the lead to as many as 15 in the first half with 5:21 to go, matching the biggest deficit of the season for the Blue Raiders. During the span, MT went cold from the field, going nine minutes without a basket before Massey’s layup ended the drought. The Blue Raiders finished the half shooting a dismal 27.3 percent and gave up 15 points off eight turnovers as they headed to halftime behind 32-20.

MT found its rhythm at the beginning of the second half, as Sulton came up with a steal then broke away to finish with a dunk at the other end to spark the Blue Raiders’ rally. Massey made it back-to-back steals and this time it was Jason Jones with the finish. On the ensuing possession, Massey found Knight behind the arc, and Knight delivered his second triple of the game to quickly pull the Blue Raiders back within three thanks to a 9-0 run.

The Blazers opened the frame with a 3:30 drought before Purifoy’s three-point play put it to a stop. MT inched closer at the 14:03 mark when Shawn Jones knocked down a layup to make it 37-36, but Purifoy’s pair of free throws moved it back to a three-point cushion.

UAB worked its way back to a 10-point advantage with 6:27 remaining before Sulton threw down a dunk and completed the three-point play with a free throw to cut the deficit back to seven.

MT pulled within five on Dendy’s first basket of the game with 3:24 left, but that was as close as the Blue Raiders would get the rest of the way as Swing knocked down a 3-pointer to push the margin back to eight at the 2:49 mark.

UAB sank six free throws in the final 1:29 to seal the 10-point victory.

The Blue Raiders return home for the next two games, hosting UT Martin on Saturday at 5 p.m. CT. MT then welcomes Belmont on Tuesday for a rematch of the double-overtime thriller from Nov. 20.

Postgame Quotes
MT head coach Kermit Davis
On playing a tough UAB team
“Give UAB credit. They played like the best team tonight. They’ve been very competitive in a lot of their games and been right there against quality teams. When you’re 8-1, you get everyone’s best shot. We had some parts in that game where we really competed, but we just didn’t do it enough for 40 minutes.”

On the lack of bench production
“Tonight’s difference was in the quality play off the bench. We just didn’t get very good bench play. Against (UAB’s) physical guards, we miss Kerry (Hammonds). We just weren’t very good off the bench.”

On overcoming the deficit
“We never panicked even when it was 25-10. I thought in the second half, Bruce Massey showed great leadership and had a great energy level tonight trying to lead us.”

Junior guard Marcos Knight
On the slow start in the first half
“They got more 50-50 balls than we did. We didn’t have a good preparation coming into this game and it showed up on the court. We’ve got to get better in practice.”

On the good start to the second half
“We came out good defensively and got a couple of steals. We had a 9-0 run, but you’ve got to give UAB respect. They came out and beat us. They out-hustled us and deserved to win. When we go on the road, we’ve got to play extra hard, and we didn’t do that tonight.”

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