Murfreesboro, Tenn. – The Middle Tennessee men’s basketball team (4-0) went on a 20-2 first-half run and never looked back, claiming an eventual 76-59 victory over UALR (0-3) Monday evening inside the Murphy Center to extend the Blue Raiders’ nation-leading regular season home winning streak to 32 games.
Senior Shawn Jones paced MT on the night, turning in his second-straight double-double with 19 points and 12 rebounds, while classmate Kerry Hammonds II posted a team-high 20 points. The double-dip was the sixth of Jones’ career. Jones was 8-for-11 from the floor on the night, while Hammonds was 5-for-8 from the floor and 7-for-8 from the line.
“We knew we were playing some teams that sure had a chance to win their league,” said MT head coach Kermit Davis. “The way we had to win them, come from behind twice, a tough, grinding game against Akron. I think it says a lot for our team with seven new guys because all it is, for eight days, is just preparation. It’s mostly mental; it really is.”
Despite MT taking a 40-25 lead into the locker room at the half, UALR went to work in the second stanza, pulling within six with 6:33 to play. The two squads swapped points for a few minutes, but a big three-point play the old fashion way from Hammonds swung the momentum back to the Blue Raiders. After Hammonds drained the free throw, MT took a 66-55 lead with 4:10 left to play and the Trojans never recovered.
Middle Tennessee has had four or more players score in double-figures in all four games this season as freshman Reggie Upshaw, Jr., and senior Tweety Knight rounded things out with 13 and 11 points, respectively. This marks a new career-high for Upshaw, who put up 12 points against North Florida Nov. 13. The freshman went 5-for-9 from the floor, including two from behind the arc with one of those capping the 20-2 first half spurt.
Knight dished out a career-best eight assists on the night, while swiping four steals. Jones helped with the Raiders’ defensive charge, swatting a game-best four blocked shots to go along with a pair of steals.
The Blue Raider defense held the Trojan attack without a made field goal for 11:52 in the first half. UALR scored its first basket of the game on a layup with 18:03 left in the half and did not score from the field again until there was 6:30 remaining.
Hammonds and Knight each hit a pair of free throws in the closing minutes to give the Blue Raiders the 17-point victory. The 76-59 win, pushes MT’s pure home winning streak to 20-games for the second-best home court steak in the country. The Blue Raiders also moved their regular season home winning streak to 32 games, the longest active regular season home win-streak in the nation. The Blue Raiders haven’t lost a home game during the regular season since Nov. 20, 2011, when MT dropped an 87-84 overtime decision to Belmont.
Middle Tennessee will leave the Glass House for the first time this season, heading to the Sunshine State Thursday to take on No. 16/14 Florida at 6:30 p.m.