|HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – Sophomore JT Sulton carried the Blue Raiders against UALR in their semifinal game at the Sun Belt Championships Monday night but it was not enough as the Trojans took a 65-56 win.
Sulton recorded the second double-double of his career with 21 points and 11 rebounds. There was also a stretch in the second half where he scored 14 of Middle Tennessee’s 18 points. It was the sixth double-double by a Blue Raider this season.
“I think he is the most improved player in the league over the last five weeks. He played great, it’s great that he is only a sophomore,” head coach Kermit Davis said.
As a team, Middle Tennessee shot 35.9 percent with senior James Washington being the only other player to score in double figures. Washington ended the night with 13 points including nine free throws.
“I told our team on this particular night Little Rock was more physical, shared the ball better, and pressured us. I thought their guards were outstanding tonight. Got to the free-throw line, we had big chances, I thought the biggest play we were down and BJ missed a three and we got an offensive rebound and we didn’t convert and then JT got hurt and he missed four or five minutes and the game kind of slowed at that particular time. I give Little Rock a lot of credit. I thought their team was real physical and played well tonight,” Davis said.
Defensively, the Blue Raiders had 10 more rebounds than UALR with 37 including 12 on the offensive side of the ball. The team also had six steals and three blocks.
Sun Belt Player of the Year Solomon Bozeman performed very well for UALR recording 25 points, including connecting on 19 of 22 free throw attempts. D’Andre Williams also had a good night for the Trojans scoring 19 points including seven field goals.
The two teams traded points to begin play before UALR took a 10-point lead, 18-8, with 6:27 on the clock. Then Sulton scored six straight for the Blue Raiders cutting the lead to three with just over four minutes remaining in the half.
UALR then went on a run of its own 9-5 including four free throws to end the half and take a 27-19 lead into the break.
Sulton posted the best first half performance with seven rebounds, six points, a block and a steal. As a team, the Blue Raiders shot 30 percent from the field and had just six total field goals.
UALR shot 40 percent with 10 field goals but made six of eight free throw opportunities. Bozeman led all scorers at the break with nine points.
Defensively, Middle Tennessee performed well with 20 rebounds, five more than UALR, two blocks and three steals.
Sulton continued to guide the Blue Raiders scoring nine of their first 11 points to begin the half. Sulton’s three-point play put Middle Tennessee within three, 33-30, with 14:49 to play.
The Blue Raiders kept UALR close using free throws to its advantage while not making a field goal for over four minutes, 40-37 8:56. A layup by Washington cut the Trojan lead to one, 40-39 with 8:15 left to play.
Middle Tennessee ended the 2010-11 season with a 16-16 record and advanced to its fifth semifinal game of the Sun Belt Championships in nine seasons.