MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – In a nationally televised battle of
Sun Belt powers, Middle Tennessee raced out to an early lead and weathered
North Texas’ comeback storm in a 75-57 New Year’s Eve wire-to-wire loss.
An ESPNU audience watched Tony Mitchell pick up his 14th
career double-double with 13 points and 11 boards, but it wasn’t enough to help
North Texas (5-9, 0-3 Sun Belt) overcome a 5-of-27 (18.5 percent) first-half
The Blue Raiders (11-3, 3-0 Sun Belt) were the preseason
pick to top the SBC East Division after rolling to the league’s regular-season
title in 2012. They were the definition of efficient with a 50-plus percent
shooting in both halves and seven players with at least seven points.
Jordan Williams scored his third straight game in doubles
figures with a team-best 15 points. Roger Franklin also reached double-figures
North Texas made just one of its first 15 shots, which
helped dig the Mean Green into a 15-4 hole in the game’s first 10:30. NT’s five
first-half field goals tied the UT Arlington loss of 2011 and the Kansas State
loss in the 2010 NCAA Tournament for the fewest first-half field goals of the
last four seasons.
Still, NT trailed by just 13 points at the half, which it
would whittle down to six points after a furious rally in the early minutes of
the second half.
It took the Mean Green the entire first half to score five
field goals, but they equaled that effort after just 4:27 of the second half –
a half that saw NT shoot 48.3 percent from the floor. A Mitchell layup with 18:05
on the second half clock narrowed the MTSU edge to 37-31.
But that would be as close as NT would come, as the Blue
Raiders would eventually push their advantage to as much as 22 points with just
over three minutes to play.
North Texas returns home to face Troy and ULM on Thursday
and Saturday at the Super Pit this week. Both tipoffs are slated for 7 p.m.