Middle Tennessee kicked off the Division I basketball season on Veterans Day Friday and did so in style with a 102-64 win.
On a day where the Blue Raiders honored servicemen and women, they did their best imitation of those who defend the country by protecting their home court, beating the Milligan College Buffaloes.
“I thought Milligan, for their level, really tried to play with a lot of toughness,” MT head coach Kermit Davis said. “Our team has a lot of work ahead of it. We’re one of those teams where we look really good but don’t play really good. We’re still trying to find our way.”
The game was also the first Rutherford County School Day for the men’s basketball team. It’s a tradition Davis said he hopes continues.
“That means a great, great deal to us,” he said. “I really wanted our team to go up into the stands and visit and be around them, because that’s a big thing for young kids like it was for all of us when we were fourth- and fifth-graders. That was a good day.”
The Buffaloes managed to shoot 42 percent (27-65) from the field and knocked down just 8-of-34 shots from beyond the arc.
While the Blue Raiders played well defensively overall, Davis said he’s hoping for more consistency moving forward as the level of competition ramps up, especially against dribble penetration.
“We have a lot of work [to do] in that area,” he said. “I think teams drive the ball at us too easy. I think we’re a team that guards for 18 or 20 seconds then breaks down.”
Friday was the first regular season game wearing the blue and white for several players.
Redshirt senior JaCorey Williams enjoyed a fantastic start to his first and final regular season at Middle, tying for a team-high with 21 points on 9-of-16 shooting. The Arkansas transfer also had five rebounds.
“I have to get into some game shape,” he said. “I was gassed at the first media timeout, but once I caught my second wind I was ok. It felt good to be back out there, though.
“I knew my hard work was going to pay off eventually, I just had to keep my mind right and stay in the gym all day. The gym gave me confidence, so I’m kind of showing it.”
Sophomore Antwain Johnson, a transfer from Chipola College, added 17 points in his first regular season game for Middle Tennessee.
The Blue Raiders’ two most experienced players returning from last season also started the season strong. Senior Reggie Upshaw had his 15th career double-double, scoring 21 points and grabbing 13 rebounds, while junior Giddy Potts added 12 points, seven boards and a career-high seven assists.
Looking ahead, Middle Tennessee is next in action Tuesday as the Murray State Racers travel to the Murphy Center. Williams said if the Raiders want to start their season 2-0, they will have to do a better job of stopping guard penetration into the lane.
“We need to guard dribble penetration, that’s our main focus,” he said. “Murray State has some scoring guards and they like to make plays off the dribble. I think once our team gets connected as far as helpside defense and guarding the ball, we’ll be fine.”
[…] Tennessee rolled to a 102-64 win against Milligan on Friday with six players in double digits, three of which were making their Blue Raider […]
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