Raiders open C-USA play in a blaze of glory
MT knocks off UAB 89-84 in overtimeJanuary 11, 2014 · @MTAthletics
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - The Middle Tennessee men's basketball team (11-5, 1-0 C-USA) rang in its inaugural Conference USA game in exciting fashion, defeating UAB (11-4, 0-1 C-USA) 89-84 in overtime Saturday evening inside the Murphy Center.
The victory marks MT's 17th-straight conference win and 25th in a row at home. The Blue Raiders outscored the Blazers 12-7 in overtime as four MT players finished the contest in double-figures as senior Shawn Jones led the way with 22 points, going 8-for-11 from the floor.
Senior forward Neiko Hunter added 12 points with five of his points coming in the extra period. Kerry Hammonds II hit back-to-back three-pointers early in the second half to rally the Blue Raiders to its largest lead of the game and finished the night with 17 points, while Reggie Upshaw, Jr. rounded out the crew with 15 points, completing the old fashion three-point play to ice the contest with 15 seconds remaining in overtime.
With 1:27 left in regulation the Blue Raiders held the 77-73 advantage over UAB, following a Tweety Knight layup that sent the stands rocking. Undeterred, the Blazers responded quickly on the other end with a layup of their own to cut the MT lead to two. After an unfortunate turnover by MT, UAB hit a pair of free throws with 35 ticks left to even the score at 77-all.
Middle Tennessee had two chances at closing the game out on the Blazers, but missed both, sending the Raiders into their second overtime contest of the season.
The Blue Raiders opened the extra time with three chances to take the lead and missed each one in the opening 50 seconds. After a miss by Hunter, Jones slammed in the put-back to ignite the crowd and put MT back up 79-77.
UAB responded as Chad Frazier zipped down the court to make the layup and the score was knotted once more. The Blue Raiders took their attempt at reclaiming the lead, but the open shot hit off the rim and fell into the hands the Blazers. Frazier, hit a deep three to give UAB the 82-79 advantage, its largest since a 25-22 lead with 6:25 left in the first half.
Hunter took the Blue Raiders on his back and provided a much needed lift, hitting a three from the left side of the arc to even the score at 82-82. Coming up the floor, Frazier lost control and Hunter swiped the ball and scored to give MT the lead again.
After three missed three-point attempts, one by UAB and two by MT, Jones tipped in the loose ball and Middle Tennessee had the four-point advantage. UAB quickly scored on the open jumper with 46 seconds left, putting the score at 86-84. Upshaw hit the bucket in the paint, drawing the foul in the process and after sinking the free throw had MT up five with 15 ticks left.
UAB's Frazier ended with a game-high 28 points while shooting 11-of-14 from the floor, including 5-for-8 from behind the arc. Jones narrowly missed another double-double for MT, corralling a game-high nine rebounds to go with his 22 points. Upshaw tied Jones with nine boards and started his fourth game for the Blue Raiders.
Middle Tennessee will be back in action against UTEP Thursday at 7 p.m. in the Murphy Center.
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