TROY, Ala. - The Middle Tennessee men’s basketball team extended its winning streak to six games with a 63-53 victory over Troy in the Blue Raiders’ first Sun Belt road test on Thursday night at Sartain Hall. Sophomore forward Shawn Jones led the way with 12 points, all coming in the first half, while junior guardRaymond Cintron added 11 points as MT improved to 14-2 and 3-0 in conference play.
The Blue Raiders showed a balanced attack throughout the contest with eight players scoring at least six points and nine grabbing at least one rebound. Senior forward LaRon Dendy and junior guard Marcos Knight paced MT on the boards with nine apiece and played a big role in MT’s 45-33 advantage on the glass, including a 19-10 advantage in offensive rebounds. Knight also had four assists and a pair of steals to go along with six points, while Dendy scored seven points.
Troy’s (5-9, 0-3 SBC) R.J. Scott led all scorers with 13 points and Daronte Clark tallied 12, while the Blue Raiders limited the Trojans’ leading-scorer Will Weathers to just three points. Troy finished the contest shooting 38.2 percent, just below MT’s 39.1 percent.
MT opened up an 8-3 lead early in the contest after Dendy completed a three-point play, but the Trojans responded with a 5-0 spurt to tie the game at the 15:36 mark of the first half. That’s when the Blue Raider defense kicked in, stifling the Trojans from scoring a field goal over the next 6:39. In the meantime, MT went on an 8-0 run, sparked by Bruce Massey’s go-ahead layup to give the Blue Raiders the lead for good and capped by Shawn Jones’ dunk to make it 16-8 with 12:00 remaining in the early stanza.
Troy inched back with a couple of free throws and finally broke the drought on a Steve Cunningham layup. The Trojans continued to chip away at the deficit, working it down to five when Tim Owens laid one in with 7:06 to go.
Back-to-back buckets from Shawn Jones and Bruce Massey stretched the Blue Raiders’ lead back to nine, but again Troy had answer as Clark sank a 3-pointer to cut MT’s lead to four.
Another dunk from Shawn Jones gave MT a 10-point lead, the largest of the frame, after a 9-3 Blue Raider run and he added a pair of free throws to make it a 36-27 Blue Raider lead at halftime.
Junior forward JT Sulton opened the second stanza with back-to-back layups, working his way in for a turnaround bucket then benefiting from Knight’s steal with a fastbreak basket at the opposite end. MT continued to mount its lead, building up an 11-point advantage on a pair of jumpers from Gallman and Jason Jones. Jason Jones, who missed the last five games, finished the contest with six points and three rebounds in 12 minutes.
Troy’s 9-2 run quickly made it a four-point game again, as the Trojans used a trio of 3-pointers to make it 46-42 with 11:28 to play.
Sulton continued his solid second half with a putback on Dendy’s missed layup for his sixth point in the frame and Cintron added two free throws to widen the margin back to eight. Gallman then sidestepped his defender and knocked down a 15-footer to make it 52-42 at the 8:19 mark.
Justin Wright gave the Trojans some momentum with a reverse layup late in the second stanza, but Cintron hit back-to-back 3-pointers from opposite corners to swing the momentum back to the Blue Raiders. Cintron nearly made it three in a row, and although his shot rimmed out, Knight was there for the putback to give MT a 60-46 lead.
Dendy and Massey combined to make three straight free throws to give the Blue Raiders their largest lead of the game at 63-48 with 3:04 remaining.
Clark would knock down the Trojans’ eighth 3-pointer of the contest and Cunningham’s layup in the waning seconds accounted for the final score of 63-53.
MT looks to remain undefeated in league play when it hosts Louisiana Saturday. The Blue Raiders and Ragin’ Cajuns will tipoff at 5:30 p.m., following the women’s contest, at Murphy Center.