Hot-Shooting Middle Tennessee Holds Off UALR, 68-60

by Jim Harris  on Sunday, Feb. 12, 2012 1:25 pm  

This story is from the archives of ArkansasSports360.com.

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — The UALR men’s basketball team saw its four-game winning streak come to an end Saturday afternoon as Middle Tennessee took a 68-60 victory at the Murphy Center. The Blue Raiders (23-4, 12-1) shot 63.4 percent to beat the Trojans (12-14, 9-3).

LaRon Dendy led all players with 23 points off a 9-of-11 effort and scored 19 points in the first half to help the Blue Raiders build a 35-30 halftime lead they would never relinquish. Dendy scored the first 12 points for MT and went 8 of 9 in the first half to help the Blue Raiders shoot 70.0 percent (14 of 20) over the first 20 minutes. MT racked up 18 assists on its 26 field goals and its field goal percentage was the highest surrendered by the Trojans this season.

“We lost to a very good basketball team today," UALR Coach Steve Shields said. "Kermit [Davis] does a great job with his guys on both ends of the floor. There’s a reason they are 23-4 and in first place in the Sun Belt Conference. They are a very talented team that leads the league in both offensive and defensive field goal percentage.

"I’m proud of our guys for the way they competed today, especially coming off of short rest and a long travel day. They are a resilient bunch, and that all starts with D’Andre Williams and Courtney Jackson.”

Sophomore Will Neighbour and the senior Williams combined for 40 of UALR’s 60 points. Neighbour scored a career-high 22 points off 8-of-11 shooting and was 3 for 6 from 3-point range. Williams added 18 points off a 5-of-11 effort and made 4-for-5 3-point attempts. UALR made 44.4 percent of its three-point attempts  (8 of 18), which helped the Trojans counter a 24-10 scoring disparity in the lane.

UALR entered Saturday’s game averaging 7.5 turnovers during its four-game streak but committed 15 turnovers against Middle Tennessee, which resulted in 17 points for the Blue Raiders. Bruce Massey totaled team highs of seven assists and three steals for MT, while Marcos Knight had 13 points and Kerry Hammonds chipped in 10 points. All five starters grabbed at least five rebounds for Middle Tennessee, helping the Blue Raiders to a 30-23 edge.

UALR got off to a fast start against the Blue Raiders, running out to an early 10-3 lead by making four of its first five field goal attempts, capped off by a 3-pointer from Williams. Dendy rallied MT from its early seven-point deficit by scoring the team’s first 12 points of the game, the last of which brought MT within 13-12, with 13:03 to go. After a 3-pointer by Williams gave UALR a 16-14 lead, Hammonds answered with a 3-pointer of his own to put the Blue Raiders on top for good.

Middle Tennessee pushed its lead to 27-20 in the first half after a dunk by Dendy, the senior forward, with 7:30 to go. UALR battled back to make it a one-point game as Williams and Neighbour connected on 3-pointers, but MT scored the final four points of the half to take a 35-30 lead.

Neighbour opened the second half with a jumper to bring the Trojans within 35-32, but the Blue Raiders used a 3-pointer by Hammonds and a dunk by JT Sulton to extend their lead to nine, 41-35. MT’s lead reached double digits for the first time with 11:34 to go, as Raymond Cintron made a 3-pointer to put the home team ahead 50-40.

UALR managed to cut its deficit to 50-45 behind a hook shot from Neighbour and a 3-pointer by Williams, but was unable to get stops on the defensive end. Three-pointers from freshman Ben Dillard and Neighbour allowed UALR to get within 56-51 after falling behind by eight points, but the Trojans would not get that close again.

UALR returns to action Thursday night when it plays host to Florida International and Panthers Coach Isaiah Thomas at 6 p.m. at the Jack Stephens Center. The game will be televised by CSS/CST.

 

 

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