Blue Raiders plunder Pirates, 84-67

Jones posts seventh double-double

January 30, 2014 · @MTAthletics

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - The Middle Tennessee men's basketball team (14-7, 4-2 C-USA) stormed out to a commanding first half lead, which setup an 84-67 victory against East Carolina (11-10, 0-6 C-USA) Thursday night inside the Murphy Center as the Pirates dropped their sixth-straight contest.

The Blue Raiders limited the Pirates attack in the first half to 22 points, marking the second lowest point total for an MT opponent all season. At Cincinnati Dec. 21, MT gave up just 21 points to the Bearcats in the opening frame.

Middle Tennessee was led by senior forward Shawn Jones, who had a game-high 22 points and posted his seventh double-double of the season with 11 rebounds. Jones also totaled all five Middle Tennessee blocks to tie his season-high set at Tulsa Jan. 23. Tweety Knight and Kerry Hammonds II rounded out the double-figure scoring for the Blue Raiders, putting up 14 points and 13 points, respectively. Hammonds dished out a game-best six assists, while Knight handed out four helpers and collected six boards. Jaqawn Raymond and Neiko Hunter each pitched in eight points apiece, while Raymond snagged a career-high seven rebounds.

"I thought we got off to a really good start defensively as a team," said MT head coach Kermit Davis. "We limited them to 30-percent shooting in the first half. We created a lot of offense through our defense and got in transition really well and that's when our team is good. In the second half we kind of lost our way. We fouled too much and put them at the line in the second half. They're a team that can score a lot of points in a lot of different ways and we did a good job against them tonight."

The Blue Raiders hit the first basket of the game and ECU responded two possessions later with a three from the nation's leading three-point shooter Akeem Richmond. Hammonds proceeded to hit back-to-back treys and then a jumper to cap off an 8-2 run to give MT an early 10-5 lead.

The two squads swapped points until MT went on a 13-0 run over a span of five minutes. The spurt was sparked by a jumper from Tavarres Jefferson and was capped off by a layup from Knight, putting Middle Tennessee up 27-10 with 7:44 left in the first half.

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The Blue Raiders extended their lead to as many as 22 with 2:54 until halftime after Knight converted on an old-fashion three-point play. ECU then rattled off six points, but Raymond ended the Pirate run, hitting a three as the clock wound down and the lights lit the backboard to give MT a 41-22 lead at intermission.

The second half was much like the first for the Blue Raiders, who continued to put the pressure on the Pirates. Jones rattled off 10 points for the Blue Raiders in a three minute period, but somehow ECU managed to chip away at the deficit and cut the MT lead down to 13 points with 7:24 to play and the score at 67-54. However, it proved to be too little too late for the Pirates and MT went on to claim the 84-67 victory.

"Shawn Jones did a great job tonight, but we have to keep him there," Davis said. "He can't fall off the upcoming games. He has to keep that level of play for us to play well against good teams. He had 22 points, but I was more impressed with the 11 rebounds. He really protected our goal tonight, blocking five shots and altering some others. And when they made that run to cut it to 13 or 14, he really hit some big shots and had some good finishes late in the game."

ECU shot 41.4-percent for the game, while the Raiders posted a 52.6 field goal percentage. Richmond entered the game averaging a league-leading 18.8 points per game for ECU and MT limited him to 12 points. Caleb White led East Carolina on the night, recording 18 points on 7-for-13 shooting, while Paris Campbell and Williams added 13 and 12 points, respectively.

MT outscored the Pirates in the paint 46-30 and won the battle of the boards 39-30. The Raider bench bested ECU's 23-14.

Middle Tennessee is set to host Old Dominion at 5 p.m. Saturday in the Glass House. The game will be televised on MyTV 30.

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