By The Associated Press
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — On a day when Middle Tennessee State celebrated its arena’s 40th anniversary, it earned a rare home win over a Southeastern Conference foe.
Kerry Hammonds’ baseline jump shot with 40 seconds remaining and late foul shots, and Middle Tennessee State handed Ole Miss its first loss of the season with a 65-62 win on Saturday.
The Blue Raiders (7-2) earned their first home win over an SEC opponent since beating Vanderbilt 93-90 in overtime on Feb. 1, 1995.
“It was an amazing crowd, and we knew it was a big opportunity,” Hammonds said. “It’s not often that you get an SEC team coming into the Murphy Center, so we knew we had to take advantage of it.”
Marcos Knight’s 14 points led MTSU. Hammonds’ shot broke a 59-59 tie, and MTSU made 4-of-6 free throws to finish off the win.
“I came and got the ball on a handoff. I wanted to go to the rim because I felt (Marshall) Henderson on my hip, and then he fell trying to take a charge,” Hammonds said. “So I just shot it because I was wide open. I had to shoot it. I mean if I’m open, I’m going to shoot it.”
Ole Miss (6-1), which had the nation’s best turnover margin, committed a season-high 18 turnovers against MTSU’s swarming defense. And the Rebels, ranked second nationally in scoring (87-point average), never found an offensive rhythm.
“I didn’t anticipate that they would just take our ball like sometimes happens with your big brother,” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said. “They just took our ball. . And I think every cut, every shot, every flash, there was contact both ways. It was a very, very physical game, and I think it was determined that way from the jump. That’s the way both of us play.”
MTSU beat SEC opponents in back-to-back seasons for the first time in program history. The Blue Raiders defeated Ole Miss in last year’s regular season and beat Tennessee in the National Invitational Tournament. They also extended their regular-season home winning streak to 17 games.
“These wins are critical,” said MTSU coach Kermit Davis, whose team had a program-record 27 wins last season. “When you can beat an SEC team, especially in front of a crowd like that, it just solidifies your program. That was a really good RPI win against a team that’s going to win a bunch of games this year.”
Raymond Cintron had 10 points on 3-of-4 3-pointers for MTSU.
Henderson, the Ole Miss sharp-shooter, was held to only two points in the first half, and MTSU went ahead 33-29 at halftime. Henderson finished with a game-high 17 points for the Rebels, who played their first road game of the season. Murphy Holloway and Nick Williams added 11 points apiece.
Ole Miss led most of the first half until MTSU’s 11-0 run turned the tide. Bruce Massey picked an Ole Miss pocket for one of his three steals to set up J.T. Sulton’s layup and foul for a three-point play. Massey’s missed layup was then followed by Shawn Jones for a put back dunk. Cintron followed with a 3-pointer, and another Ole Miss turnover led to Trantell Knight’s three-point play for a 33-26 lead. MTSU was up 33-29 at the break.
Ole Miss took back the lead with a seven-point spurt, as Henderson’s 3-pointer pushed it to 38-35 early in the second half. MTSU countered with back-to-back 3-pointers by Cintron and Hammonds to ultimately go ahead 47-42 at the 11:30 media timeout.
Ole Miss erased MTSU’s 59-52 lead with seven straight points in only 86 seconds, capped by Henderson’s game-tying 3-pointer from 25 feet with 2:06 remaining.
Hammonds buried the go-ahead jumper over Henderson, who slipped trying to defend penetration, for a 61-59 lead. On the other end, Holloway missed a wide-open 3-pointer.
MTSU’s Sulton made two foul shots, and both Massey and Cintron hit 1-of-2 from the line to secure the victory.