MTSU started a new home winning streak as it bounced back from Thursday’s loss with an 80-56 win over UTSA tonight at the Murphy Center. It was the first ever meeting between two of the newer schools in Conference USA. MTSU jumped out to a 13-0 lead in the first half and never looked back to the victory.
“I was really proud of them, because we beat a really good UTSA team,” MTSU head coach Kermit Davis said after the win.
During the first half, the Blue Raider defense held the Roadrunners scoreless for the first five minutes, 34 seconds of the game. Thanks in part to a three-pointer by senior guard and former Siegel star Kerry Hammonds and a steal and wrap around lay-up by freshman forward Reggie Upshaw.
The MTSU advantage extended all the way up to 19, 35-16 after another long distance trey by Hammonds with 2:55 left in the opening half.
MTSU head coach Kermit Davis was pleased with the team’s effort, especially after starting out on the long run to begin the game. The beginning of the second half was much of the same for the Blue Raiders as it jumped out on a 12-0 run to start the half, and it held the Roadrunners scoreless for the first 4:24 of it. Hammonds and senior forward Neiko Hunter each nailed a three during the run to take a 49-23 lead.
“I thought we got off to great start in both halves, which is encouraging,” Davis. “I thought our physicalness was really good. We pressured the ball, and we were more aggressive. We created some offense out of our defense.”
“We knew we had to bounce back from the loss we had earlier this week,” Hammond added after the win. “The starting five in both halves were like we got start with this possession and keep on rolling.”
While, the Blue Raiders defense made it share of plays also, including forcing a couple of shot clock violations by UTSA during the second half. Overall, MTSU forced 16 turnovers, and converted them into 26 points
“We came out really focused, and it starts on defense,” junior guard Marcus Tarrance said after the win. “It showed tonight.”
Coming into tonight, the Blue Raiders were trying not to become the first team since 2010 to lose back-to-back home games. Those two losses came to Vanderbilt and Furman in December of that year. On Jan. 16, the Blue Raiders had its 25 game home conference winning streak snapped by UTEP. Tonight, it started a new streak.
“We have been a really good home team,” Davis said. “This league is really good, and there is going to be some road wins. It was crucial today to come back and at least win two games during the home stand. It was a really important game for us.”
“It is real big, because this conference is real tough,” Hammonds added. “We have to defend our home court in front of our fans, so you will have the momentum going into your road games.
The Blue Raiders were led by Hammonds with 19 points, while Tarrance added 16 off the bench. Upshaw had 12 in the win.
“He was more aggressive, and he made some shots,” Davis said of Tarrance’s play tonight. “I though he just played harder tonight.”
The Blue Raiders improve to 12-6, 2-1, while the Roadrunners dropped to 6-11, 2-2. MTSU heads to Tulsa on Jan. 23 at 8 p.m. and it will be shown on Fox Sports 1.
“They are playing really good, and they played the fifth hardest schedule in the country,” Davis said. “Right now, they are playing the best out of anybody in our league.”