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Raiders open season with 78-66 exhibition win over Truman

Hunter, Jones and Tarrance carry MT past Bulldogs

November 4, 2013 · @MTAthletics

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - The Middle Tennessee men's basketball team used its front line to defeat Truman State in an exhibition Monday night inside the Murphy Center, outscoring the Bulldogs 78-66 in a game that was built on streaks.

Truman State, which shot 47-percent from the floor, had no answer for senior forwards Shawn Jones and Neiko Hunter. The tandem each reached double-digits early in the second half led by Hunter's double-double, making a layup at the 18:50 mark in the second frame to give him 11 points with 11 rebounds. Hunter finished the exhibition performance with 15 points and a game-high 15 boards.

"I need to come to work hard every day," Hunter said. "Coach has challenged me with being a better rebounder this year and I was able to do pretty well tonight, but I have a lot of work left to do."

Jones scored a team-best 17 points on 7-of-15 shooting, while grabbing three rebounds. Off the bench the Raiders were led by Marcus Tarrance, who scored 14 points. The junior went 6-for-11 from the floor and was perfect from long distance, making two three-pointers.

The Blue Raiders out rebounded the Bulldogs 48-22, showing the dominance that MT's front line displayed throughout the contest.

"We have to get where we can guard again," said head coach Kermit Davis. "Our rebounding is good, but we're just not guarding."

The Bulldog held the lead for the first 6:58 of the contest, until Jones made a layup to tie the game at 6-6. Truman and MT went back and forth until the 10:54 mark, when Zane Gibson made a pair of free throws, putting the Blue Raiders in front 13-11. However, it was just a matter of moments before Truman quickly tied it back up on a jumper.

"The reason we schedule this game is exactly for the reason that everyone saw tonight," Davis said. "Coach Matt Woodley has a really good team in Truman. They're very well coached; their point guard was just something. He got it going."

Gibson went on to hit a three-ball with 9:40 remaining in the first half to give Middle Tennessee the lead for good.

MT would rally and continue to battle with the Bulldogs through the first half and stand behind the performances of Jones and Hunter. Tarrance made a three-pointer with 1:28 remaining to give the Blue Raiders a 38-27 advantage, the 11-point difference was the largest lead of the first half. The Blue Raiders went into halftime holding a 38-29 lead.

In the second half, MT jumped back to its double-digit lead behind a quick basket by Tweety Knight, but then saw its lead fall back to six at with 17:17 to go. Knight would help the Raiders get the score to 57-43, after completing an old-fashion three-point play with 12:06 remaining.

Heading down the stretch and bench, MT continued to keep its double-digit lead through the closing minutes of the exhibition against a tough Truman State team.

MT's Tharone Chilton nailed a three-pointer with eight seconds remaining to give MT the final 78-66 victory. This was the only exhibition for the Blue Raiders this season as they will now turn their attention to their regular season opener Sunday, Nov. 10 as they welcome Southern University to Murphy Center for a 4 p.m. tip-off.

"Southern University is a really good team," Davis said. "I've watched them on tape. They're well coached; they have really good players. It will be like a really good Conference USA game to open it up right off the bat."

Southern reached the NCAA Tournament last year, where the Jaguars nearly knocked out top-seeded Gonzaga, dropping a 64-58 decision in the round of 64.

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