MURFREESBORO, Tenn. -- The MTSU men’s basketball team made it looks easy tonight against Tennessee Temple at the Murphy Center with a 102-52 win.
It was the final home game of 2013 for the Blue Raiders, as they improved to 8-3 on the season even though they were without one of their best players, senior guard Kerry Hammonds.
The Crusaders, out of the National Christian College Athletic Association, hung in with the Blue Raiders early on in the first half with a 23-21 score before MTSU head coach Kermit Davis called a timeout to talk with the team.
It must have worked.
The Blue Raiders held Tennessee Temple scoreless for about five minutes and went on a 19-0 run, which included 3-pointers by junior guard Marcus Tarrance and freshman forward Reggie Upshaw.
“We just would not guard, and we did not get back,” Davis said. “We kind of had some mixed up lineups tonight. We were playing Neiko Hunter at the three, and we had Upshaw and Hunter playing the perimeter. Our defensive transition was not great. We locked down the ball better and made some better decisions defensively.”
Tennessee Temple got no closer than 19 points during the rest of the half, and the Blue Raiders took a 56-28 lead at the break.
The Blue Raiders were led by a selection of players in the win tonight. Several of them scored in double figures led by Upshaw with 18 points, Hunter added 16, Jaqawn Raymond finished with 12, Shawn Jones and Tharone Chilton each had 11 and Tarrance chipped in with 10.
Coming into the game, the Blue Raiders were coming off a 72-63 loss Saturday at Ole Miss.
One of the main reasons, MTSU fell to the Rebels was poor free-throw shooting. In the loss, the team only made 11 out of 21 free throws.
It was a point of emphasis for the team during preparation for tonight’s game. It must have worked, because the Blue Raiders only missed two free throws during the first half in tonight’s win.
“It was an Achilles heel in the Ole Miss game if we make our free throws, we win the game,” Davis said. “We spent a lot of time on it. It seems like early on when guys step up and make them it gives the whole team some confidence. That was a good stat going 23-for-28.”
It was the fifth opponent MTSU played this season that played in the 2013 NCAA Tournament. During the stretch, the Blue Raiders were 3-2 against those teams.
Now, the Blue Raiders head to Cincinnati on Saturday afternoon to face the Bearcats from the American Athletic Conference. It will be the sixth opponent from last year’s NCAA tournament that MTSU will have faced this season.
The next home game for the Blue Raiders is Saturday, Jan. 11, against Conference USA foe UAB. It will be the first C-USA game in program history.