MTSU – 84
UTEP – 72
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – The Blue Raiders welcomed The UTEP Miners to The Murphy Center Thursday night, trying to stop a two-game losing streak. The Miners, on a two-game losing streak of their own, come into Murfreesboro with a road record of 1-7, while MTSU is 7-2 at home. Middle would look to make sure both of those trends continued.
The first eight minutes of the game was a rock fight as both teams were looking to solve the other’s defense. Middle found room in the paint but wasn’t finishing well enough while UTEP was being forced into really tough shots but converting. One thing was certain, we were in for another physical matchup in Murfreesboro.
As the half continued, the physicality only ramped up. Middle, and specifically Jestin Porter, found more success on the offensive side of the floor, but each time they put a small run together The Miners were able to answer until a 7-0 run in the final five minutes that put The Raiders up 33-22 with less than three minutes to go. Middle was able to hang on to the lead for the most part as they took a 38-31 advantage to the locker room.
Points in the paint accounted for 28 and 22 of Middle and UTEP’s points. This one was going to continue to be a battle at the rim. Whoever could win that battle in the second half could very well win the war.
Middle attacked the paint early and got rewarded with free throws. Those points, along with some big three-pointers dropping, and a technical foul on UTEP’s head coach after one of those big shots allowed The Raiders to build up a ten-point lead at the 16-minute mark.
Eli.dribbledrive.threepointer.mp4 🎥 pic.twitter.com/FpFaxQK3sl
— MT Basketball (@MT_MBB) February 3, 2023
So far, in contrast to the first half, Middle didn’t take their foot off the gas and maintained the lead. UTEP wasn’t going quietly and threw some punches in The Raiders direction, but Middle had an answer each time. At the 7:55 media timeout, The Blue Riaders had the lead 68-58 looking to close the game out down the final stretch.
However old habits returned and UTEP mounted a 12-4 run and clawed back to a two-point deficit with four minutes to go. At the two-minute mark Middle was able to build back to an eight-point lead, but could they hold on this time? That last push ended up being all The Blue Raiders needed as they took another ten-point lead with a minute to go, and would go on to win 84-72.
Tae Hardy led all scorers with 21 points for UTEP, while Cam Weston led MTSU with 16. Jared Coleman-Jones led all players with seven rebounds for The Blue Raiders, and Calvin Solomon led UTEP with 6. Deandre Dishman and Tae Hardy tied for the most assists with three each.
This is what Head Coach, Nick McDevitt, had to say post game:
The Blue Raiders’ next game is against UTSA, at home, at 5:00pm on Saturday.