MTSU men rout Maryville College in season opener

After knocking off some opening-day rust, MTSU's men rebounded in a big way for a win over Maryville College Tuesday at the Murphy Center.

The Blue Raiders (1-0) found themselves trailing 33-32 with three minutes left in the first half when the light finally went on. They outscored the Scots 87-28 from there and never trailed again, sending a crowd of more than 8,000 packed with Rutherford County elementary school students home happy with a 119-61 win.

It was the most points MTSU has ever scored in a season opener and went down as the fifth-highest scoring game in program history.

"It was a good team win for us," MTSU head coach Nick McDevitt said. "I liked the way we played, particularly in the second half.

"(The elementary school kids) bring energy, and it's definitely loud. … I thought the atmosphere and having the Rutherford County Schools kids in there was awesome."

MTSU couldn't get out of its way early, turning the ball over 10 times in the first half and committing 12 personal fouls.

Once they got their act together, the Blue Raiders showed their dominance, led in large part by a three-headed offensive monster.

Senior Antonio Green followed up a 14-point first half with 16 in the second, knocking down 8-of-12 shots overall, 6-of-10 from 3-point range, and all eight of his free throws, for 30 points to go with four steals. It was his third career 30-point game.

Juniors C.J. Jones and Jo'Vontae Millner, making their MTSU debuts, added 21 and 15 points, respectively. Jones started 3-for-8 from the floor in the first half but made seven of his last nine shots and added three steals and two blocks. Millner finished with a double-double in 28 minutes, adding 13 rebounds (eight offensive) and two blocks.

"It felt great being back and getting a win," Jones, who redshirted last season after transferring from Arkansas, said. "I was nervous at first, but once I took that first shot, I was back to my normal self."

The second half looked much more like what McDevitt wants to see from his team moving forward.

MTSU shot 68 percent from the floor after halftime, including 5-for-11 from distance, and cut its turnovers down to five. It also scored 36 of its 62 points in the paint in the second half and 34 of its 47 points off turnovers, forcing 19 Maryville miscues in the last 20 minutes and 28 in the game.

"I just tried to get us going, talking and doing what the coaches are saying and relaying messages," Green said. "We know what we had to do … it was just about effort. That's something we obviously have to work on."

Other notable players on the stat sheet for the Blue Raiders included sophomore Jayce Johnson, who was hampered with foul trouble in the first half but still managed 14 points and six rebounds. Freshman Tyson Jackson was the other player in double-figure scoring, making all five of his shots for 12 points to go with five rebounds.

McDevitt will try to get his team to carry the momentum into an away game at Lipscomb Saturday at 3 p.m. before reurning home on Nov. 13 against Mars Hill.

"We have to have a little quicker start than we did (today)," he said. "You're not going to have the home crowd behind you and trying to get you going, so you can't get down 14-6 on the road to Lipscomb and count on a breakaway dunk to get you going.

"We've got to get that corrected going into Saturday."

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