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Raiders rally in second half for 70-63 win at North Texas

MT picks up first C-USA road win against Mean Green

January 25, 2014 · @MTAthletics

DENTON, Texas - The Middle Tennessee men's basketball team (13-7, 3-2 C-USA) overcame a 13-point first-half deficit with an early second-half rally to claim a 70-63 victory at North Texas (11-9, 2-4 C-USA) Saturday night inside the Super Pit, marking the Blue Raiders' first Conference USA road win.

Middle Tennessee was led on the night by senior Kerry Hammonds II, putting up 18 points. He shot 5-for-8 from the floor and was a perfect 6-for-6 from the line, while grabbing six rebounds. Three other Blue Raiders recorded double-figures as Neiko Hunter tallied 13 points, while Jaqawn Raymond and Tweety Knight added 12 and 11 points, respectively. Shawn Jones paced the Raiders on the boards, snagging a game-high nine rebounds.

"That's as good of North Texas team as we've seen," said MT head coach Kermit Davis. "They're athletic, they're strong, they're deep and can score the ball in different areas so I'm really proud of our guys. Probably the key to the whole game was how we ended the first half. I really think we got momentum and carried it into the second half."

The Blue Raiders found themselves down 24-11 with 6:56 to go in the first half, but finished the opening frame on a 17-8 run, closing the gap to 32-28 at the intermission. MT opened the second half strong, carrying over a 7-0 spurt from the end of first half for a 12-2 run and giving the Raiders a 35-34 lead after a three-pointer by Raymond with 18:05 to play.

Middle Tennessee slowly extended its lead over the next 10 minutes, when a Knight layup gave MT a 55-45 advantage with 8:40 to play. A few minutes later, MT rattled off six-straight points as Kerry Hammonds hit a pair at the line, Jones drained a jumper and Knight laid one in, pushing the Blue Raider lead to 61-48 with 5:35 to go. The 13-point advantage was MT's largest lead of the night.

The Mean Green responded with a 13-2 run over the next four minutes, including an old fashion three-point play by Colin Voss, a big trey by Vertrail Vaughns and a steal followed by a layup from Vaughns. Down four at 63-59 with 1:31 to play, North Texas fouled Hammonds and sent him to the line to shoot the one-and-one. Hammonds buried them both, putting MT up six with just over a minute on the clock.

Voss then hit a layup for NT, cutting the Blue Raider lead to 65-61. Knight then drew a foul with 36 seconds remaining and went to line to shoot two. The senior point guard made the pair of freebies, but the Mean Green answered with a layup from Chris Jones to keep the MT lead at four.

Desperate to stop the clock, North Texas fouled Hammonds, sending him to the line for two with 23 seconds on the clock. He knocked down both, putting Middle Tennessee up 69-63. On the other end, Jones collected a defensive board for MT and got fouled. Jones made one of two at the line, giving the Blue Raiders the eventual seven-point victory.

On the night, MT outrebounded North Texas 35-26 and claimed the contest of second chances 8-7. The Raiders outscored the Mean Green in the paint 32-24. Middle Tennessee shot 51.0-percent from the floor and 45.5-percent from long distance, while NT was 43.1-percent on the night and 35.3-percent from three-point range.

The Blue Raiders return to action Thursday, Jan. 30, hosting East Carolina for a 7 p.m. tip on MyTV 30.

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