MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – The Middle Tennessee men’s basketball team (6-2) couldn’t overcome a 16-point first half deficit Tuesday night as nearby Belmont (8-2) claimed a 70-58 victory inside the Murphy Center and ended the nation’s longest regular season home winning streak at 33 games.
MT’s last regular season home loss also came at the hands of Belmont, dropping an 87-84 double overtime decision Nov. 20, 2011. The Blue Raiders also saw their overall home win-streak end at 21 victories, a streak that was tied for second longest in the country with Duke. Ironically, Belmont held a 24-game home winning streak until last Sunday, when the Bruins lost to VCU 81-68 in the Curb Event Center.
“It wasn’t about us losing, (Belmont)’s a quality team,” said MT head coach Kermit Davis. “I’ve gotten beat before. It was nothing about the streak breaking. It was just how we played in the attempt to win the game. That’s not who we are, and that was disappointing.”
Shawn Jones led Middle Tennessee, recording his third double-double of the season with 21 points and 11 rebounds. Jones was 8-for-10 from the floor and 5-for-7 from the line. Neiko Hunter was second on the team, tallying 16 points to go along with six rebounds. Belmont’s J.J. Mann finished with a game-high 32 points, going 14-for-16 from the charity stripe.
The Blue Raiders found themselves down 16 with 9:58 to go in the opening frame, thanks to a 13-0 run by the Bruins. MT went to work and whittled deficit down to five with 1:20 left in the half, but a Belmont layup put the Bruins up 29-22 to enter halftime.
MT went to work in the second half and slowly chipped away at the Belmont lead. Jones helped the Raiders, scoring five-straight points in a 1:37 stretch early in the second to put the score at 36-31. Things were looking up for the Blue Raiders with 10:08 to go as they managed to cut the deficit to three and the Glass House was rocking.
Both teams exchanged points for a few minutes, but the Bruins ended up pulling away with two minutes left in the contest. Belmont went on to claim the 12-point victory, after leading by as many as 16 early in the first half. MT never led and after trailing by double-figures, three points would be the closest the Raiders would get.
Both teams were fairly even in shooting percentage on the night as MT was 38.2-percent from the floor and Belmont was 38.8-percent. Behind the arc, the Blue Raiders shot a season-low 11.1-percent (2-of-18), while the Bruins were 35.0-percent (25-of-32). Belmont went 25-for-32 from the line for 78.1-percent, compared to MT’s 14-for-23 from freebie line for 60.9-percent. The Raiders won the battle of the boards though, 38-33.
Middle Tennessee will be back in action Monday, Dec. 9, hosting Fisk at 7 p.m.