Both teams came into the game upset about the absence of their names on this years NCAA tournament bracket. The Blue Raiders hadn't played since their loss in Hot Springs; while the Herd came in to play their fifth game in seven days, and after a loss in the Conference USA championship.
"They looked like a team that hadn't played in nine or ten days," Marshall head coach, Tom Herrion would say about the seemingly fresher Blue Raiders. Marshall certainly looked like a team that was tired and Middle would take advantage of it jumping to an early 9-2 lead.
"They looked faster, sharper, and quicker," Herrion added.
The Blue Raiders would pound it down low in the first half scoring 26 of their 39 points in the paint and out rebound the eighth best rebounding team in the nation 19 to 17. The Raiders would continue their woes from the charity stripe shooting only 53% from the line (8-15). Despite free throw shooting, Middle Tennessee led at half 39-30.
"It all started with LaRon," head coach Kermit Davis would say about practice leading up to this game, and Laron Dendy would go on to show the second half would end with him as well.
"Had to get more physical, I was shooting too many jumpers," Dendy said about his halftime adjustments.
Dendy would grab five boards (four offensive), 11 points, three assists, and a block all in the second half. He would finish with 18 points and 13 rebounds.
Dendy's dominance down low would ignite the Blue Raider offence to a 20-point lead with about 11 minutes to go. The Thundering Herd would not give up easy cutting it to a five-point game with a 1:30 left due to a cold streak from the field for Middle. J.T. Sulton would seemingly seal the deal on a breakaway dunk with under a minute left, to make it a seven-point game and energize the nervous Blue Raider Faithful.
"The last dunk came from good D and my team seeing me open," J.T. Sulton.
Middle Tennessee would capture it's 26th win, 86-78, and first postseason win since '89.
The Blue Raiders will travel to Knoxville for the second round of the NIT; something that has LaRon Dendy excited, "It's going to be my first time to play against them. It's going to be a big deal."
Middle Tennessee rebounds big in the NIT
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