Middle Tennessee led by just one point when James Washington drove the ball into the paint and found his teammate James Gallman open on the wing.
Gallman caught the pass and put up a three that hit with 6.6 seconds remaining, clenching victory for the Blue Raiders over the University of Louisiana-Monroe.
“In my head I was just telling myself to go straight up,” Gallman said, following the Raiders’ 60-54 win. “Washington always knows where I’m at, we just connect.”
Offense for Middle was hard to come by, primarily in the first half when they shot only 40.9 percent from the field.
The team did have a few big plays in the first half on the offensive end of things, including an alley-oop pass from Washington to JT Sulton.
ULM shot 50 percent from the field and out-rebounded Middle 15 to 10 in the first half, leading the game 28-23 at the break. The first half also saw ULM shoot eight more shots from the free throw line that Middle.
In the second half Middle did not see any real increase in offensive production, but defensive pressure for the Raiders picked up, holding ULM only nine for 30 from the field in the second half and one for 11 from three.
“That’s kind of what won it because we weren’t very pretty offensively tonight for sure,” head coach Kermit Davis said.
Trevor Ottley scored early in the second half on a basket assisted by Jason Jones, Jones then stole the ball from ULM’s Fred Brown to set up a score by JT Sulton. The next Middle possession Jones hit a jumper and reclaimed the lead for the Raiders.
From the point on the game was back and forth, neither team able to gain any real advantage over their opponent.
Middle could have put the game out of reach, but missed five free throws in the game’s final four minutes.
A three by ULM’s Marcelis Hansberry set the score at 55-54 in favor of the Raiders. Monroe chose not to foul the Raiders on the ensuing possession despite Middle’s struggles from the line in the final minutes, leading to Gallman’s clenching three.
“They were going to take it right down to the end,” Davis said. “We did expect a foul, but at the end I thought we had good composure. When James Gallman shoots good threes he makes threes. That one was set, great pass, big shot for us.”
The Raiders’ next four games are against the four teams trailing them in the Sun Belt’s eastern division. With two games at home and two on the road Middle needs to show well in the next few weeks heading into the conference tournament.
“It’ll go down to the last weekend for sure,” Davis said. “This is a big part of our schedule. It’s a big stretch.”
Middles next game is Saturday at 3 P.M. in the Murphy Center where they will play South Alabama.
“It’s a close race right now,” Gallman said. “This conference is up and down. We have just got to play every day, we’ve got to play hard every day.”