Middle Tennessee State maintains NIT mastery of Tennessee

Monday, March 19, 2012 at 10:32pm
Staff reports

Meeting Tennessee in the NIT isn’t getting old for Middle Tennessee State.

The Blue Raiders rallied to knock off the Volunteers 71-64 Monday night in Knoxville for their second win all-time against UT. The first came in the 1988 NIT.

Middle Tennessee (27-6) advances to the quarterfinals to play either Minnesota or Miami on Wednesday.

Trailing 64-56 with 7:11 left, the Blue Raiders, seeded fourth, ended the game on a 15-0 run for its second victory in 11 meetings with the Vols.

It started at the free-throw line, where MTSU entered the game shooting 62.8 percent, which ranks 317th in the country. The Blue Raiders hit nine of 10 during the stretch and made 20-of-28 for the game.

Guard Bruce Massey also scored eight of his game-high 20 points over the last 5:26, including the go-ahead layup with 90 seconds left. The junior also grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds. Senior LaRon Dendy chipped in 10 points and nine rebounds as MTSU dominated the boards, winning the rebounding battle 46-30.

The Blue Raiders led by as many as 12 in the first half before Tennessee (19-15) closed the gap. The Volunteers, one of four No. 1 seeds in the tournament, trailed by just two points at halftime and jumped in front early in the second. After a seesaw battle, Jarnell Stokes pushed Tennessee ahead, 47-45, with a dunk at the 14:46 mark. The Volunteers stayed in control for a while, leading by eight points on four occasions. But Jordan McRae’s layup after a Stokes steal would be the last bucket for Tennessee.

Jeronne Maymon scored 17 points and Stokes added 15 as four Volunteers scored in double figures.