USA Men’s Basketball Faulter In Second Half Against MTSU
The Jaguar men’s basketball team lost to former Sun Belt Conference rival Middle Tennessee State 65-55 on Saturday. The Blue Raiders held the Jags without a field goal over the final 9:08 and finished on a 16-2 run to down the Jags.
The Jags squandered a first-half lead again this season as they held an eight point advantage at halftime but only shot 12.5% in the second half, one field goal in the final 14:20 and none in the final 9:08 of the game.
This puts the Jags at 4-3 on the season while the Blue Raiders improve to 6-1 on the season.
Middle Tennessee started a 13-0 run at the 5:32 mark with the final 10 points coming from the free throw line. The Jags went 0-for-13 from outside the arc in the second half after shooting 6-of-8 from there in the first half.
Augustine Rubit led all scorers with 15 points but fell short of a double-double with nine rebounds. Freshman Aakim Saintil added 14 points off the bench with a career high five steals. Junior Mychal Ammons added a game-high 10 rebounds.
South Alabama took control of the game in the first half when they had a 14-3 run over a six minute stretch to break a tie and give themselves an 11 points lead.
“I thought we came out and played really hard and focused early on,” said head coach Matthew Graves after the game. “Anytime you play on the road you want to get off to a good start and I thought we did that. We controlled the tempo, we were attacking and making plays that you need in order to get that lead.”
“In the second half we got lackluster and got on our heels,” Graves continued. “Like I told the guys in the locker room, I think it’s a three-part problem: one, I have to do a better job of putting the players in a place to be successful. Two, I think our guards need to be more in attack mode, not to score the ball but to get others involved, and three, our bigs were stagnant. We stood around and they weren’t as active in the second half as they were in the first half, so we have a lot of things we need to work on.”
“To a certain extent I think they turned the pressure up a little bit but I think it’s really more our fault,” Graves said. “We didn’t attack like we did in the first half and we didn’t continue to go at the rim. We settled for too many contested 3-point shots, which is what we want to give up on our end, but they made the adjustments and did what they needed to do. It’s really disappointing for us.”
“What they did was make a conscious effort to drive the basketball.” Graves said. “They have a veteran team over there and they took advantage of their opportunities. The bottom line is, we need to be tougher. We have to go after every loose ball. I thought we had a couple of guys do some good things and compete but we’ve got to have the whole team do that for an extended period of time.”
The Jags will return to action on Monday night when they host Spring Hill at the Mitchell Center. Tip off is set for 7:05pm.