Well, you know the old saying, “Defense wins championships.”
I know it’s a tired clique used by coaches, players and sportswriters, but it is also the reaso the Middle Tennessee men’s basketball team has won the 15 out of its last 16 games. The winning streak was extended to 11 games after a dominating win 93-41 over Troy on Saturday evening.
“That was a complete game,” MTSU head coach Kermit Davis said after the game. “The stats tell the story.”
The Blue Raiders started off fast and never let up thanks to the incredible shooting of senior guard Raymond Cintron, who went four-for-six from long distance in the opening half. It should have been five 3-pointers, but one was waved off because of a foul by him. He finished with 20 points, including six-for-eight from 3-point range.
“He is as good as any shooter in college basketball,” Davis said about Cintron’s performance.
However, once again it was the vaulted MTSU defense, which held Troy to only 18 points in the first half. It was the second lowest total given up by the Blue Raiders in a half this season. As for their opponents, it was the smallest amount of points scored in a half by the Trojans.
Coming into the game, the Blue Raiders were 28th in the nation, according to Pomeroy, with a defensive efficiency rating of 89.7. Also, the MTSU has held its sixth out of last eight opponents to 60 points or less and 13 of its last 16 games.
The defense is led by the MTSU guards, Marcos and Tweety Knight, Cintron, Kerry Hammonds, Bruce Massey and James Gallman. Each of them makes it their mission every night to lock down on the opposing guards and limit their production on the floor to the bare minimum.
The game against Troy was no different as the Trojans were held to zero 3-pointers in the first half. The second half was more of the same for the Blue Raiders as they held the Trojans to 30.6 percent shooting from the field in the easy win.
This win over Troy was also historic from 11-year MTSU head coach Kermit Davis, as he tied former South Alabama head coach Ronnie Arrow for most Sun Belt Conference wins with 112. The coaching record can be broken in the Blue Raiders next game on Feb. 16 at Arkansas-Little Rock.
Which it’s going to be an interesting mark to have since the Blue Raiders will be joining Conference USA next season.
Wither the case, in order to stay on a track to a SBC title, and its first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 1989, the Blue Raiders will need to continue suffocating defense.
When asked after the game if this is the type of defense, which could win a championship. Cintron gave a short, but simple answer, “No doubt.”