– Another strong start for the Blue Raider men's basketball team wouldn't last Saturday evening as Middle Tennessee fell at the hands of a one-loss Toledo squad in Ohio.
MT fared much better offensively than in their last outing, collecting 13 assists on the evening after tallying just three against Murray State, but couldn't convert enough open looks to hang with the Rockets.
"I thought we ran good offense tonight," Head Coach Nick McDevitt
said. "We had clean looks at the basket and did a nice job with ball security, we just couldn't make shots and it seemed to get a little too contagious for a little bit."
The Blue Raiders (3-8) scored on two of their first three trips down the floor inside Savage Arena as a Reggie Scurry
lay-in and Karl Gamble
3-pointer put them up 5-0 just over a minute in.
Toledo (10-1) quickly began filling it up as they so frequently do, shooting 47 percent from the field and 39 percent from three on the season entering the contest. Down 7-2, the Rockets connected on four consecutive trips down the floor to take a 12-11 lead into the first media timeout.
Middle Tennessee hung tough out of the breather with back-to-back baskets by Antonio Green
keeping the Raiders within one at 17-16 before they would finally succumb to a run by the Rockets.
Toledo opened up a 13-2 streak over the course of three minutes to go up 30-18 with nine minutes remaining in the half.
first basket of the evening at the 6:30 mark closed the gap to single digits at 32-24, but the first half was all Rockets from then on as they finished on a 16-6 run that concluded with four made free throws in the final two seconds of the half.
While Middle Tennessee was able to find success in the paint before the break, leading 18-10 on points in the paint with 15 points from its starting post players, a 7 for 13 (.538) mark from beyond the arc for the Rockets proved to be a major difference in the box score.
The Blue Raiders, who were called for 12 fouls in the first half to Toledo's four, finally made their first trip to the free throw line on their first possession out of halftime as Scurry knocked down a pair of freebies to make the score 48-32.
Middle Tennessee made four trips to the line before the first media break of the second half as the foul count began to even out, but a 4 for 8 clip from the charity stripe didn't help the Raiders close the gap to any less than 15.
As the clock ticked under 13 minutes Middle Tennessee trailed the Rockets by 14, but the theme of the night remained the same as MT struggled shooting while Toledo seemed to hit every open look it had to eventually open up their largest lead of the night at 28 points.
A pair of late threes by Darnell Butler cut Middle Tennessee's final deficit to 22, falling 84-62 in Toledo. Butler, recently ruled eligible by the NCAA on Dec. 4, is now 3 for 3 from 3-point range in his young career as a Blue Raider.
Toledo finished the night shooting 45.9 percent (28-61) from the floor, 42.3 percent (11-26) from three and 81 percent (17-21) from the charity stripe as the Blue Raiders shot a solid 42.6 percent (26-61) from the floor but were just 4 for 17 (.235) from 3-point range and a season-worst 6 for 15 (.400) on freebies.
The Blue Raiders, who ran good offense on the night but failed to consistently convert, did win points in the paint 36-24 and finished below their season average with 14 turnovers.
"I thought we did a pretty nice job of taking care of the basketball," McDevitt stated. "To end the night with I think a season-low 14 turnovers, we did a nice job there.
"When it came down to it they just knocked down a lot of shots, they just don't miss open threes. Unfortunately for us, we missed a lot of open looks tonight going 4 for 17 from three and really struggled from the free throw line as well."
Scurry was consistent throughout for MT, finishing with 13 points and six rebounds, while Green added 13 points of his own. Hawthorne added seven points and a team-high nine boards off the bench.
The Blue Raiders return to action Friday evening as they host the Ole Miss Rebels at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. That contest is set to tip at 7:00 p.m. CT.