Blue Raiders' late rally upends top-seeded Tennessee in NIT second round

MT to host Minnesota Wednesday, tickets available now

March 19, 2012 · Athletic Communications
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - The Blue Raider men’s basketball team mounted a 15-0 run in the final minutes to knock off top-seeded Tennessee, 71-64, on Monday night in the second round of the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) at Thompson-Boling Arena. Bruce Massey led the charge with his first career double-double, posting career-highs of 20 points and 10 rebounds to propel Middle Tennessee to its first victory over the Vols since the 1988 NIT.

No. 4 seed MT (27-6) will host No. 6 seed Minnesota on Wednesday at 6 p.m. CT and the contest will air on ESPN2. All tickets are general admission and currently available online for $10 each. To avoid long lines at the ticket windows, print your ticket from home or the office using the convenient TicketFast option, available at no additional cost.

Men's Basketball vs. Tennessee
Murphy Center gates will open Wednesday at 4:45 PM. BRAA members with valid membership cards will be admitted beginning at 4:30 PM.

Middle Tennessee students who show a valid BlueID card at the main ticket office will receive a complimentary ticket to the game.

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The Blue Raiders also become the first Sun Belt team since UAB in 1989 to advance to the quarterfinals of the NIT.

Massey was especially clutch at the free throw line, finishing the contest 8-for-9. He also chipped in four assists and three steals. LaRon Dendy also neared a double-double, scoring 10 points and grabbing nine rebounds.

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Trailing by eight with 7:11 to play, the Blue Raiders hit five straight free throws, including four from Massey, to cut the deficit to three with 4:31 to go. Marcos Knight made it a one-point game with a driving layup then Massey kissed one off the glass with his left hand to put MT back on top for good at 65-64 with 1:30 remaining. Knight finished the game with nine points.

Massey wreaked havoc on the Vols at the other end as well, blocking Trae Golden’s jump shot on Tennessee’s next possession and adding a jump-stop bucket in the paint with 39.1 seconds left in the game.

Raymond Cintron made four free throws in the final 17.2 to seal the win and finish the 15-0 run.

The Blue Raiders held Tennessee (19-15) without a basket for the final 7:11. MT also out-rebounded Tennessee, 46-30, and finished the game shooting 46.2 percent compared to the Vols’ 37.9 percent.

MT opened the game with runs of, 8-0, 7-0 and 6-0 in the first 12 minutes to build a 23-11 lead with 8:36 left in the first half. Massey's jumper gave the Blue Raiders a 12-point bulge, their largest lead of the game.

The Vols rallied to tie the game at 25-25 on a Josh Richardson jumper with 2:58 left in the first half. That bucket finished off a 14-2 run by the Vols spanning 5:19, but the Blue Raiders maintained a 36-34 advantage at the half.

Tennessee took its first lead since 2-0 on a Maymon lay-in, one minute into the second half, as the Vols took a 39-38 advantage.

The Vols took an eight-point lead, their largest of the game, on a Jordan McRae driving lay-up after Jarnell Stokes saved a ball from going out of bounds with 7:11 remaining, just before MT’s game-ending run. Stokes finished with 15 points, just behind Jeronne Maymon’s team-high 17 points. Golden also scored double-digits with 14 points.

Postgame Quotes
Head coach Kermit Davis
(On ending the game on a 15-0 run)
“We got into a timeout and just talked about winning on the defensive end. There were tons of possessions left. We started trapping the post, and they probably missed a couple of shots that were open. We made late game free throws. We took advantage of every possession.”

(On responding after being upset in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament)
“It speaks for the character of the players and how they responded. It started with LaRon Dendy. We were devastated after Hot Springs and still had our hopes that we maybe we could get an at-large bid. We kind of prepared them for the NIT and talked about what a great tournament it was. We got right back into the gym and followed his lead. He had a great energy. We have had really, really good practices the last two weeks.”

(On the significance of the win)
“It means a lot to me, and it means a lot to our staff. I know it means a lot to our fan base. We understand how good Tennessee has been, and how good this team, this year has been in this building. It was difficult and maybe we will cherish this in a month. But it is a quick turn-around. When we get on that bus, it has to be behind us.”

Senior forward LaRon Dendy
(On taking momentum from this game)
“I want to keep on going. I feel like this is a special team. We got down a little bit, but as a team we’re like a family. Coach Davis picked us up. The team picked ourselves up. We came out on a 15-0 run and won the game.”

(On the keys for Middle Tennessee down the stretch)
“We knew that we had to do what we do best and that’s executing our offense and playing harder on defense. They were getting a lot of offensive rebounds and second chances. We knew that if we stopped them from getting second chances and executed our offense, then we would win the game. That’s what happened.”

(On the significance of winning at Tennessee)
“Like Bruce said, you grow up watching Tennessee. Getting a victory over Tennessee, that’s big time. We’re just going to take this, cherish this and keep going.”

(On the team battling foul trouble)
“It was very tough, but we still had to go out, play and not worry about foul trouble. I knew that there was a good chance of me getting my fifth foul and fouling out, but I knew I had to keep playing hard.”

Junior guard Bruce Massey
(On his performance)
“I hit free throws early to start the game. I could see the basket getting a little bit bigger. My teammates told me to stay in attack mode all game long but to be smart about it and pick my spots when to attack.”

(On whether he sensed his bucket to put MTSU in front 67-64 was the game-winner)
“It was a sense. We went up three. We had guarded the 3-point line well all game. They weren’t, fortunately, hitting many threes. We knew we had a slight advantage."

(On finding the extra motivation down the stretch)
“We were in the same situation against Vanderbilt earlier in the season. We got tired down the stretch. They got tired, but they made the extra push to give them the victory. Tonight, we didn’t want to quit. We didn’t want to lose. We found the extra energy to keep going. Coach Davis told us, ‘Don’t stop. No quitting tonight. If we’re going to lose, give it your all.’”

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