March 19, 2012
Led Tennessee with 17 points and seven rebounds coming off the bench after returning to action.
2: MTSU has both its wins over the Vols in the NIT, also beating UT in 1988. All-time the Vols are 9-2 vs. MTSU.
15-0: MTSU finished the game with a 15-0 run, as the Vols didn't score for the game's final 7:11.
138: Cameron Tatum played his 138th and final game with the Vols, second-most in UT history.
1,083: Cameron Tatum finished his UT career with 1,083 points, 41st all-time at Tennessee.
12,038: A raucous crowd of 12,038 came out to support Tennessee in the NIT.
BY JOSH PATE
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Middle Tennessee moved on to the next round of the NIT and ended Tennessee's season Monday night by scoring the final 15 points to come back and beat the Volunteers 71-64 at Thompson-Boling Arena.
Tennessee sat comfortably with a 64-56 lead when Jordan McRae hit a driving layup with 7:11 remaining in the game. That's when the Blue Raiders responded by feeding the ball to Bruce Massey.
Massey hit four consecutive free throws, then Marcos Knight sank a layup in the paint to cut Tennessee's lead to 64-63 with 2:42 remaining. Massey came back with a layup in the lane to give the Blue Raiders a 65-64 lead and change the game.
On the defensive end, Massey blocked Trae Golden's jumper and then came down to nail another jumper of his own to make it 67-64 Blue Raiders. Tennessee's Skylar McBee couldn't connect on his two good looks from long range, and Middle Tennessee's Raymond Cintron nailed four free throws to finish the game.
"We just fell short," Tennessee head coach Cuonzo Martin said. "We were out of our consistent flow offensively. I felt we shot a couple balls quick as opposed to really pounding the ball inside and taking advantage of them."
During the stretch run when Middle Tennessee took control, the Vols missed their final nine shots and one free throw.
"I think we were just running our offense and couldn't put the ball in the hole," said UT junior Jeronne Maymon. "We didn't need to be patient. We just needed to execute our offense. We had good clock management. We were getting the shots that we wanted. We just couldn't put it in."
Middle Tennessee's decision to double-team the post played havoc on Tennessee's gameplan, too.
"I think a couple times we got the ball inside to them, but they (Middle Tennessee) did a good job double-teaming them and making them try to make plays out of it," UT senior Cameron Tatum said. "We kicked it out to some of our shooters. We got a good look at it and didn't knock it down or got to the bucket and couldn't make a layup."
Tennessee's inside game was still productive. Maymon led Tennessee with 17 points and seven rebounds, and Jarnell Stokes added 15 points. Golden scored 14.
Massey led the Blue Raiders with a career-high 20 points and 10 rebounds. LaRon Dendy was the only other Middle Tennessee player in double figures with 10 points, and he grabbed nine rebounds.
Tennessee won the battle in the paint, outscoring Middle Tennessee 34-28 behind efforts from Maymon and Stokes. Yet the Blue Raiders dominated the boards, outrebounding the Vols 46-30.
Middle Tennessee shot 46.2 percent from the floor compared to Tennessee's 37.9 percent.
"It means a lot to me, and it means a lot to our staff," Middle Tennessee head coach Kermit Davis said of the upset victory. "I know it means a lot to our fan base. We understand how good Tennessee has been, and how good this team, this year has been in this building."
The Blue Raiders held the upper hand early when they raced out to a 12-point lead late in the first half. Tennessee then turned to its inside play to claw back into the game.
The Vols responded with their own 14-2 run capped by a steal and layup by Stokes and then a long jumper from Josh Richardson to tie the game at 25.
The Blue Raiders converted a three-point play and then nailed a 3 to recapture the lead at 31-25. The Vols came back with another layup by Stokes inside and then two foul shots by McRae to make it 36-34 MTSU at the half.
Tennessee came out hot to start the second half with a Tatum 3-pointer and a post-up by Maymon in the paint to grab the lead. The Vols continued to feed the paint, and a strong putback by Yemi Makanjoula made it 55-48 Tennessee with 11:31 to play. Tennessee pushed the margin to eight points before the Blue Raiders mounted their comeback.
Tennessee finished its season 19-15 overall. MTSU improved to 27-6 and moved on to the NIT quarterfinal round and will host Minnesota on Wednesday night at 7 p.m.