On Wednesday night, the MTSU Blue Raiders (10-1) beat the Belmont Bruins (4-4) at the Curb Event Center. The final score was 79-66.
Here are six takeaways from the game.
1. Belmont came out of the gates very cold
Several times this season Belmont has struggled offensively after tipoff. Wednesday night was no exception, as the Bruins were stagnant early on against an aggressive and physical MTSU defense.
Belmont didn’t score a single point until nearly six minutes after tipoff, when senior forward Evan Bradds made a three pointer from the left corner of the court. Beforehand, the Bruins had missed six field goal attempts and sacrificed three turnovers.
Belmont’s poor start allowed Reggie Upshaw to guide the Blue Raiders to an early 13-0 lead. The 6’7’’, 232-pound sophomore scored eight points during the team’s 13-point run, and he was far and away MSTU’ best performer through half, shooting 5-of-7 from the court for 13 points, three rebounds, and a steal.
2. Belmont nearly evened the score by halftime
Despite their poor start, the Bruins managed to get back into the game rather quickly.
During a five-minute span near the end of the first half (8:40-3:55), Belmont went on a 13-4 run thanks in large part to guards Dylan Windler and Taylor Barnette, who shot 2-of-2 from the field and 2-of-2 from behind the arc. Afterwards the score was tied at 24 apiece.
MSTU responded with a series of successful possessions right before the half: Reggie Upshaw made a pair of free throws, JaCorey Williams converted a jumper, and Edward Simpson scored from three. As a result, the Blue Raiders led 31-28 at the buzzer.
3. Belmont’s three point shot was falling at the start of the second half
Although the Bruins shot just 4-of-14 (28.5%) from three point range in the first half, they had a quick turnaround at the start of the second half, making six consecutive shots from beyond the arc and converting nine of their first 10 attempts.
Senior guard Taylor Barnette was a major contributor to this hot streak. Through the first thirteen minutes of the second half, he converted all four of his shots from distance and assisted a three-point shot from Dylan Windler.
This success from three kept Belmont within reach for most of the second half. In fact, with about seven minutes remaining in the game, they had a one-point lead (62-61) and some momentum over the Blue Raiders.
That narrative changed soon after.
4. When Belmont’s three-ball returned to normal, Giddy Potts, JaCorey Williams and Reggie Upshaw took over
While the Bruins shot 9-of-10 from beyond the arc at the start of the second half, thereafter their three-ball returned to normal, as the team missed their next five attempts from distance.
As a result, Belmont was no longer able to hold off the performance of MTSU’s trio of JaCorey Williams, Reggie Upshaw, and Giddy Potts. Through the last seven minutes of the game, they collectively scored 12 of the Blue Raiders’ final 18 points while recording four rebounds, two blocks and a steal.
MSTU’s dagger came with 1:04 remaining. Edward Simpson passed the ball to a wide-open Potts on left corner of the court, and he sank the three-point attempt to push the Blue Raiders’ lead to 75-66.
The nine-point deficit proved insurmountable. On the Bruins’ following possession, Upshaw blocked Austin Luke’s layup attempt, Williams secured the rebound, and MTSU was able to close the game with a set of free throws.
5. MSTU bolstered their assist-to-turnover ratio
MSTU currently has one of the best assist to turnover ratios in the country. In fact, at 1.55, the Blue Raiders rank 10th in the NCAA, behind nationally recognized teams like Notre Dame, UVA, and UCLA.
Middle Tennessee bolstered that stat-line against Belmont on Wednesday night as they had 17 assists versus 5 turnovers. That’s a ratio of 3.4.
“The best thing we do as a team is limit the amount of turnovers,” said Raiders’ head coach Kermit Davis after the game. “Sometimes it’s more magnified in a football game, but in a basketball game, the limited number of possessions that you can get, [if] you take care of the ball and get shots at the goal, that’s huge. I mean 17-to-5 is a great number.”
Kermit also went on to say that the Raiders’ eight-game win streak “was a great birthday present.” The Raiders, now 10-1, will look to extend their win streak at VCU on December 17th.
Belmont also plays on December 17th at Green Bay.
6. Evan Bradds continued to do it all
While the limelight of this matchup belongs to MTSU, it would be remiss not to mention the performance of Belmont senior Evan Bradds.
The reigning OVC player of the year continued to do it all for the Bruins, as he finished the game with 21 points (9-of-16), 16 rebound, three assists and just one turnover.
The only player to rival that performance was MTSU senior Reggie Upshaw, who recorded 21 points (8-of-13), six rebounds, three steals, two assists, a block and no turnovers.