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Blue Raiders upset Rebels with close win

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Blue Raider junior guard Kerry Hammonds (24) makes the tie-breaking shot to beat the Ole Miss Rebels during the Dec. 8, 2012, game held at the Murphy Center in Murfreesboro, Tenn. (TMP Photo/B. Lambert)
The Blue Raiders beat the Rebels 65-62 during a Saturday night face-off at the Murphy Center, making this the second consecutive win against Ole Miss.

This was the first time the MTSU men’s basketball team welcomed an SEC team since playing Tennessee in 2008.

And it is the first win over an SEC team at the Murphy Center since Feb. 01, 1995, when MTSU edged out a 93-90 overtime win against Vanderbilt.

Tonight’s game against the University of Mississippi ended with a baseline jumper by MTSU junior guard Kerry Hammonds with 40 seconds left to break a 59-59 tie.

“I just came and got it on a handoff,” Hammonds said. “I wanted to go to the rim, but the (Ole Miss) defender fell while trying to take a charge. The shot was wide open, and I had to shoot it.”

After the bucket by Hammonds, fellow teammates JT Sulton, Bruce Massey and Raymond Cintron added four free throws and held off a late charge by the Rebels for their seventh win of the season.

Only two MTSU players finished in double-figures, Knight with 14 and Cintron at 10. All 12 players saw playing time, 10 of which got on the scoring sheet.

The Blue Raiders have been known for their deep bench, and tonight was no different. The non-starters outscored the Rebels bench 26-6.

“It was a game a depth, and I thought our bench played good,” MTSU head coach Kermit Davis said.

Ole Miss came into the game leading the nation in turnover margin with plus-9 and second in scoring averaging 87 points per game.

Tonight, the Blue Raider defense held the Rebels to a season-low of 62 points and forced 18 turnovers, a season high for the team. The Blue Raiders took this match-up as a challenge in facing one of the highest scoring teams in the nation.

“It’s more of a team challenge,” Massey said. “It meant Tweety (Knight) and I had to pressure the ball, so they could not run their stuff. It’s a team effort.”

The MTSU players and coaches said they enjoyed playing in a loud atmosphere of 6,107 fans and believe it played a huge role in the victory.

“We knew it was going to be a big game, and we were going to have a great atmosphere,” Hammonds said. “The crowd was amazing today. You do not get too many opportunities to play an SEC team in the Murphy Center, so we knew we had to take advantage of it.”

This was the second home win this week for the Blue Raiders against a tough non-conference opponent.

On Wednesday, it knocked off future Conference USA member UAB 84-64.

Tonight’s win makes it 17 regular season wins at home in a row inside the Glass House for the Blue Raiders.

Blue Raider players believe a win like this will help them get ready for the heart of the Sun Belt Conference season, which starts Saturday, Dec. 29, against Florida International.

“It helps us a lot,” Massey said. “We know conference games are just going to be like these games, and there will be no easy ones. The non-conference schedule helps once you go into the long run.”

MTSU improves to 7-2 on the season, while the Rebels fall to 6-1 on the season. The Blue Raiders hit the road Thursday, Dec. 13, at in-state foe, Belmont with tip-off at 6 p.m.

Read more from:
Basketball, Blue Raiders, Bruce Massey, JT Sulton, Kerry Hammonds, Marcos Knight, MTSU, Murfreesboro, Ole Miss, Raymond Cintron, Sports, Tweety Knight
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