Middle Tennesse shuts down Old Dominion

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Once again, Middle Tennessee State’s defense proved to be too much for Old Dominion.

The third-seeded Blue Raiders suffocated the sixth-seeded Monarchs for the second time this season, limiting Old Dominion to 32 percent shooting in a 62-48 victory in the Conference USA quarterfinals Thursday at the Don Haskins Center in El Paso, Texas.

The Blue Raiders (24-8) will face second-seeded Tulsa in Friday’s first semifinal. The Golden Hurricane advanced with a 70-49 victory over seventh-seeded Tulane on Thursday.

Old Dominion completed its first season under coach Jeff Jones with a 16-17 record.

Forward Neiko Hunter scored 16 points to lead three Blue Raiders in double figures. However, the story of the game was Middle Tennessee State’s defense, which clamped down on Old Dominion and shut out the Monarchs’ leading scorer, Aaron Bacote. The sophomore guard went 0-for-4 from the field and didn’t attempt a free throw.

“He was playing as well as any guard in our league, but I think our switching bothers them,” Blue Raiders coach Kermit Davis said.

Guard Ambrose Mosley led Old Dominion with 13 points. Forward Richard Ross added 12 points and eight rebounds.

The Blue Raiders led by 11 at halftime and expanded the advantage to 18 after the break. The Monarchs cut the deficit to nine points midway through the second half but were unable to consistently generate enough offense to pose a more serious challenge.

The result was strikingly similar to the first meeting between the two teams, a 64-48 Middle Tennessee State victory on Feb. 1.

“We couldn’t get the ball to go in the hoop, and an awful lot of that has to do with Middle Tennessee State being a terrific team,” Jones said. “They are extremely well-coached, particularly at the defensive end.”

Old Dominion shot 32.1 percent from the floor, while Middle Tennessee State hit 54.3 percent of its shots.

Ross opened the game’s scoring with a jump shot, but Middle Tennessee State’s rangy, athletic defenders took control of the game from there. The Blue Raiders scored the next 11 points, and the game took on a predictable pattern — the Monarchs having to battle for congested jump shots while the Blue Raiders thrived with run-outs, layups and in-rhythm 3-pointers.

“At times we’re not a really pretty offensive team, but I thought we defended at a high level,” Davis said.

Five consecutive points by guard Kerry Hammonds gave the Blue Raiders a 30-15 lead. Guard Keenan Palmore and Ross got field goals inside the final minute to send Old Dominion into the half down 30-19.

Ross finished with 10 first-half points, but like the rest of his teammates was forced to operate on the perimeter. The Monarchs shot just 26.7 percent before the break and were outscored 18-0 in the paint.

“It’s apparent the team we played tonight is older, stronger and more physical,” Ross said. “That was a very physical game, and it began to take a toll on us.”

NOTES: Middle Tennessee State finished in a four-way tie for the Conference USA regular-season title with Louisiana Tech, Tulsa and Southern Miss. It was the third consecutive season the Blue Raiders, formerly of the Sun Belt Conference, earned at least a share of the league title. However, Middle Tennessee State hasn’t won a conference tournament title in 25 years … Middle Tennessee State F Shawn Jones, the Conference USA Player of the Year, finished with eight points and 11 boards Thursday. He had 20 points and 10 rebounds in the Blue Raiders’ regular-season victory over the Monarchs. … Old Dominion’s 16 victories represent an 11-win improvement over last season, when the Monarchs finished 5-25.

Alan is an experienced writer of online betting and casino guides. He is one of the main editors of Basketballinsiders.

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