It was nice to see the home gym again, but the home floor wasn't enough to give MTSU's men a win Saturday.
The Blue Raiders (3-5) hosted a game in the Murphy Center for the first time in 17 days and held a lead in the second half against Belmont (5-3) but faltered down the stretch, losing 71-59.
"I was proud of our effort. We dug a big hole and dug ourselves out of it," MTSU coach Nick McDevitt said. "I just thought a tough, experienced team showed itself in the last five or six minutes, so congratulations to Belmont."
MTSU fell behind double digits early but made a couple of big runs to get back into it.
After trailing by as many as 20 points in the first half, an 18-2 run brought the deficit back to as little as four before they went into the halftime locker room down 34-25.
Belmont's nine-point halftime advantage wouldn't last long, as the Blue Raiders used its second big run, this time 21-5 over the first six minutes of the second half, to take a lead by as many as seven points.
Freshman Tyson Jackson led the spurt, scoring eight of his career-high-tying 12 points in the run. He finished 5-for-9 from the field and grabbed a team-high eight rebounds to set a new career-high mark. He also had two blocks.
"It all starts on the defensive end," he said. "We definitely put a lot of emphasis on defense this past week, and I think we've made a big improvement on that. It's something we can keep building on in practice."
Despite battling back for the lead, MTSU couldn't escape a lid snapping around the basket.
The Raiders missed four shots in a row and suffered a scoring drought of more than three minutes down the stretch, allowing Belmont to turn a one-point deficit with eight minutes left into a lead of 10 with 2:35 remaining.
Middle Tennessee shot 34 percent from the floor in the game, but had hit 13 of its first 25 in the second half before missing its last six.
Joining Jackson in double-digit scoring was Jayce Johnson with 15 and C.J. Jones 13.
"We were floating a little bit, and some of that I think was due to fatigue and how hard we played to get back in the game," McDevitt said. "We had some guys who were cramping and needed a breather, but there just aren't a lot of bodies for us to get into the game right now."
The home stand lasts a little longer for the Blue Raiders. They'll take on Columbia International in the Murphy Center on Tuesday before hitting the road for games at Murray State and Ole Miss the following week.
"It's always nice to be at home," McDevitt said. "Over the next several weeks, we have several tough opponentsm so the competition level only continues to get better and better and our team has to get better and better.
"Those are the kinds of games you have to battle through, and you have to win your home games in order to finish in the upper tier of your league."