MTSU's time in NCAA tournament is short-lived

Wednesday, March 20, 2013 at 12:23am
Staff reports

Middle Tennessee State picked a bad time to lose back-to-back games for the first time all season.

In the battle of No. 11 seeds with strong backcourts, St. Mary’s prevailed and ended the Blue Raiders’ season. MTSU sputtered offensively and played catch-up most of the night in a 67-54 loss on Tuesday in a First Four matchup in Dayton, Ohio.

The Blue Raiders owned the nation’s longest winning streak before they fell in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament more than a week ago. But with an RPI of 29 and a school-record 28 wins, they received an at-large bid to play in their first NCAA Tournament since 1989.

The appearance was short-lived.

MTSU (28-6) dug itself an early hole and didn’t have answer for St. Mary’s guards. Matthew Dellavedova scored 22 points and made five 3-pointers and Stephen Holt added 18 for the Gaels (28-6).

The Blue Raiders ledby five points early. Raymond Cintron’s 3-pointer in the corner with 9:59 left in the first half gave MTSU its final lead, 16-13. St. Mary’s went on a 16-4 run and had a 29-20 halftime lead. The Blue Raiders made just one field goal in the final 10 minutes of the half.

The Gaels pushed the lead to 11 on a long Dellavedova 3-pointer with 15:39 remaining but MTSU made one final run. Kerry Hammonds made two 3-pointers, Shawn Jones finished off a dunk and Marcos Knight scored on a layup after a steal by his brother, Tweety.

The elder Knight’s transition basket cut the lead to 41-38 with 4:39 left but the Blue Raiders wouldn’t get any closer. They missed a chance to pull within one when Tweety Knight’s jumper missed. St. Mary’s scored the next four straight points.

A 3-pointer by Holt with 4:22 left stretched the advantage to 57-44 and all but ended MTSU’s comeback attempt.

The Blue Raiders shot 42.3 percent but could never get into an offensive rhythm. They failed to create opportunities in transition and forced just seven turnovers. St. Mary’s made eight of 14 3-pointers and outrebounded MTSU 33-28.

Marcos Knight ended his career with 16 points and six assists. Juniors Kerry Hammonds and Neiko Hunter each scored 10 points.

5 Comments on this post:

By: yogiman on 3/20/13 at 12:49

Maybe next year.

By: TITAN1 on 3/20/13 at 5:28

Congrats on a great season!

By: jwk6179 on 3/20/13 at 9:20

The problem with being in the NCAA Tournament Feild of 68 is, unless you win a couple of games in the tournament and get to the Sweet 16 or the Elite 8, no one remembers that you were even in the tournament. In a few weeks, the only people that will remember that MTSU (or Belmont if they lose their first round game) was even in March Madness will be the MTSU fans. It may be better to go to the NIT and make the Final 4 and build for next year than to get into the NCAA Tournament and get knocked out in your first game.

By: joe41 on 3/20/13 at 9:47

I can't understand losing to St. Marys. Sure they are a veteran team, however, the Blue Raiders were much more athletic. Heck Vanderbilt has beaten St. Marys twice in the last few years. Even at their place!

By: TITAN1 on 3/20/13 at 3:50

jw, I agree on nobody will remember MTSU because this is their first time to make the tourney in many years and was in the play game and lost. But once you have been in it two or three times and lose to Duke by 1 in 08, I think people remember and take notice. As for one and done in the big dance vs winning the NIT, I think it is better getting to the big dance because that is the goal. But, a lot of people feel the same way you do.