Hunter's heroics help MT hang on to 74-66 win at TSU
Hunter comes up big for Raiders at the line in final stretchJanuary 7, 2014 · @MTAthletics
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The Middle Tennessee men's basketball team (10-5) saw a 19-point first half lead dwindle to two, before pulling out a 74-66 victory a Tennessee State (2-15) Tuesday night inside the Gentry Center.
Middle Tennessee was led by the efforts of four Blue Raiders that finished in double-figures. Senior Neiko Hunter led MT with 19 points, scoring primarily from the free throw line and finished the night 11-for-13 from the charity stripe. Fellow senior forward, Shawn Jones recorded his 10th career double-double and fifth of the season with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Kerry Hammonds II helped set the tone early and scored 16 points, while freshman forward Reggie Upshaw, Jr. pitched in 10 points.
Over the next 11 minutes the Blue Raiders extended their lead to 11 points before using its largest stretch of the first half to put the game seemingly out of reach for instate foe TSU.
Following a three-ball by Marcus Tarrance with 8:44 remaining in the opening frame, the Blue Raiders held the 21-11 lead over the Tigers. The next trip down the floor, TSU's Patrick Miller went 2-for-2 from the line and it would be the last time the Tigers scored for nearly two minutes. In the two minute hiatus, MT rallied off a 9-0 run to extend the lead to 19, capped off with a Reggie Upshaw, Jr. jumper at 6:30.
MT saw its nearly 20 point lead dwindle to 39-28 at halftime as the Blue Raiders shot 44.4-percent from the floor and only committed two turnovers, while forcing 10. The Tigers shot a perfect 10-of-10 from the free throw line in the first half.
Hammonds led the Blue Raiders with 13 points through the first half on 4-of-5 shooting, including 3-for-4 from behind the arc. Big-man tandem of Hunter and Jones added eight and seven points, respectively.
The Tigers opened up the second half on a 10-4 run, cutting the Middle Tennessee lead down to five. MT went on a 7-0 run of its own to push the lead back to 12 with 14:41 remaining.
The Blue Raiders floated around a double-digit lead until the 11:31 mark, when TSU responded with its biggest run of the game, a 10-0 spurt that dropped the MT lead down to two with 8:42 left.
Middle Tennessee finished the game at the free throw line after not making a field goal through the last seven-plus minutes. Hunter carried the Blue Raiders down the stretch, making 9-for-10 from the free throw line over the final five minutes of action, including collecting a huge block at the 1:10 mark to shift momentum towards the Raiders.
On the night, MT shot 35.4-percent from the floor and 28.6-percent from long distance, while TSU was 40.8-percent from the floor and 33.3-percent from behind the arc. The Raiders were 70.6-percent from the line, while the Tigers shot 80.0-percent from the charity stripe. TSU won the battle of the boards 42-37, while MT turned the ball over just three times compared to TSU's 16.
The Blue Raiders move to 10-5 with the win, capping off nonconference play. MT is 3-1 on the season against instate foes. Middle Tennessee will open Conference USA play Saturday in the Murphy Center, hosting UAB at 5 p.m.
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