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Raiders roll over Green Wave, 71-44

MT wins sixth-straight

February 13, 2014 · @MTAthletics

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - The Middle Tennessee men's basketball team (18-7, 8-2 C-USA) downed Tulane (13-12, 5-5 C-USA) 71-44 Thursday evening inside the Murphy Center, extending its winning streak to six games.

The Blue Raiders used a dominating team-defense to shut down the Green Wave, limiting Tulane to just 17 first-half points and 44 for the game. The 44 points is the lowest that Middle Tennessee has held an opponent to this season, besting the 48 points set against Old Dominion Feb. 1.

"I think our team is obviously getting better collectively guarding as a group," said MT head coach Kermit Davis. "I thought Kerry (Hammonds) was outstanding tonight. I thought he guarded better, played great offense and let the game come to him. Our bigs were just solid. The storyline was, it wasn't very pretty at times offensively, but we just guarded so well."

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Three Blue Raiders finished in double figures, led by senior Kerry Hammonds II with 18 points on 6-for-11 shooting, including 4-of-7 from three-point range. Shawn Jones finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds for his ninth double-dip of the season, going 9-for-10 from the line. Jones also added six blocks, tying his career-best mark set against South Alabama Feb. 21, 2013. Neiko Hunter rounded out the double-digit scorers with 13 points, while adding seven rebounds.

"Shawn (Jones) was outstanding from behind our defense: blocking shots, changing shots," Davis said. "It's amazing just even the shots he doesn't get, the shots that he effects. That's a big part of our defense. I thought Reggie Upshaw guarded really well tonight. Our team, we have some strides to make, but in those kind of league games, when you aren't pretty offensively, we just hung our hat defensively."

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Each side swapped buckets to open the night inside the Glass House and eventually the score found its way to 13-13 after Tulane's Thomas Bruha hit a layup. Middle Tennessee then went to work and held the Green Wave scoreless for a six-minute stretch, scoring 11 unanswered points. The run was capped by a Tweety Knight layup to give MT the 24-13 advantage with less than seven minutes remaining in the first half.

Tulane's Louis Dabney broke the scoreless streak with a bucket following the Knight layup to dip the lead back into single digits. MT finished the first half on a 9-2 run and held the Green Wave to 17 points. The lowest opponent point total in the first half this season, eclipsing the previous mark of 21 set at Cincinnati Dec. 21.

Opening the second stanza with a comfortable 35-17 lead, Middle Tennessee pushed its lead to 22 points with less than 13 minutes remaining after a Hunter dunk. Tulane chipped into the Blue Raiders lead, but was only able to cut the MT lead to 14 points with 10:31 remaining. Over the final 10 minutes of play, the Blue Raiders outscored Tulane 24-11 and cruised to a 71-44 victory.

Jonathan Stark was the lone Tulane player to finish in double-figures, putting up 15 points on 5-of-10 shooting. Dabney finished with nine points, while Stark and Tre Drye each snagged six boards.

Middle Tennessee shot 38.2-percent from the floor, while holding Tulane to 30.0-percent. MT shot 43.8-percent from long distance and a season-high 84.6-percent from the charity strip, connecting on 22-of-26. The Blue Raiders won the battle of the boards 44-34 and bested the Green Wave on points in the paint 24-16.

MT plays host to current Conference USA leader Southern Miss at 1 p.m. Saturday, airing on CSS.

Follow the Blue Raiders on Twitter @MTAthletics for continued updates.