MURFREESBORO – Middle Tennessee honored its six seniors in a pre-game ceremony on Saturday night and did what its supposed to on the special night taking an 81-54 win over South Alabama.
Senior Calvin O’Neil continued his impressive string of performances shooting 7-9 from the field for a team high 15 points. Senior Montarrio Haddock posted 14 points and seven rebounds. The pair along with junior Trevor Ottley combined for a 13-6 run to begin the second half which extended the Blue Raider lead to 12, 50-32, and put the team ahead for good.
“I’ve been working out extra with Coach Case these past couple of weeks. He reminds me every day that it’s my senior year and I only have a couple of weeks left. So I’ve been pushing real hard and trying to make a good impression as we leave,” O’Neil said.
Ottley, who came in off the bench, ended the game with seven points and seven rebounds.
“It was a fantastic senior night. The only way senior nights are enjoyable is if you win so it was a great way for those six guys to go out. Our team really played defensively with a lot of purpose and was very unselfish in transition. It was a good balanced attack and a good way to end the home stand this year,” head coach Kermit Davis said.
The bench performed extremely well for Middle Tennessee (17-12, 11-5) against the Jags scoring 42 points with junior Rod Emanuel and freshman James Gallman posting 12 and 10 points respectively. To end the first half Gallman and Emanuel helped guide the team in an 11-0 run, which included three three-pointers.
“Our bench came off, gave us a great contribution and we outscored them 43-5. Tonight wasn’t about me, it was about all of the seniors and we just had to come out with a win against a good team,” senior Desmond Yates said.
Yates, who got in foul trouble early, scored five points after going 2-4 from the field and pulled down two rebounds.
“We’ve pretty much done everything individually; at least I know I have, that we wanted to do here. Right now, it’s about winning. There’s two games left to be tied in first place and we control our own destiny. It’s a good feeling. We’re going to Florida on Wednesday to try to get these two wins,” Yates said.
Emanuel ended the game 2-3 from behind the arc while Gallman went 3-6 as the Blue Raiders made eight three-pointers in the game. Middle Tennessee shot 51.6 percent from the field while holding the Jaguars to 34.7 percent.
Defensively, the Blue Raiders had 39 rebounds which included 12 on the offensive side of the ball and scored 18 second chance points.
The two teams traded points to begin play with USA taking a five-point lead, 11-6, with 13:54 on the clock. The teams continued to battle but then Blue Raiders hit their stride. A three-pointer by Gallman put Middle Tennessee up 21-20 with six minutes to play.
The Blue Raiders stayed ahead and Gallman hit two more from behind the arc putting them up 32-24 with 1:36 on the clock.
Gallman led all scorers at the break with 10 as he went 3 for 5 from behind the arc. The Blue Raiders shot 50 percent in the half while holding USA to 34.8 percent from the field.
Middle Tennessee will close out the 2009-10 regular season next weekend when it travels to Florida to play Florida International and Florida Atlantic.