At 27-4, Middle Tennessee feels like it has done enough to earn a spot in the NCAA tournament. It felt that way last year, too, before losing to Western Kentucky in the season finale and then in the quarterfinals of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament.
“This team has accomplished a lot of firsts the last couple years and this year,” MTSU coach Kermit Davis said. “I just think we haven’t had a conference tournament championship in many, many years. I know it’s something that will be a huge goal of this team. Right now, that will have no effect on how we play.”
The Blue Raiders matched a school record with their 27th win and have won 16 straight – the third-longest streak in college basketball.
The 19th win in conference play also set a new league record.
“If I was on the committee I would say, ‘Yes,’ ” WKU coach Ray Harper said. “They’ve done everything they need to do. I don’t know what more they could do to get into the NCAA Tournament. We’ve played some pretty good basketball teams, from VCU to Louisville, some others that they’re as good as, if not better than any of those guys. That’s a veteran basketball team and they played like it.”
Crook plays final game
in front of a sellout
Jamal Crook played his final home game as a Hilltopper in front of a sellout crowd Saturday.
The senior and native of Louisville was honored before the start of the game, along with walk-on and former football player Marcus Vasquez.
“It definitely felt good to have our fans come out and support us the last game,” Crook said. “That’s always a plus. But at the end of the day, we lost, so it would’ve been better if we won. I appreciate the fans coming out and supporting.”
Crook finished with 10 points on 3 of 12 shooting and had three assists to two turnovers.
“It all starts with the point guard,” he said. “I take blame for not really focusing in as much as I should have. I was supposed to be a big help guy and I broke down a little bit on defense. It is what it is and we continue to still play basketball next week.”
Going to Hot Springs, Ark., as the league’s sixth seed may not be that bad a draw for Western Kentucky.
The Hilltoppers (16-14, 10-10) will play the conference’s worst team in Louisiana-Monroe (4-22, 3-17) on Friday. A win there would give them another shot at South Alabama (17-11, 14-6), which they beat 79-73 on Thursday.
“We’ve been talking about it for a while, keep getting better, let’s keep working day-by-day, one step at a time. That’s what these guys have done,” Harper said. “Jamal was hurt and T.J. was hurt and we never really talked about George. George was hurt and Kevin was hurt and Caden was hurt. We knew we were going to be fine. We were getting some guys back. Don’t forget about us.
“It’s a credit to these young men – their attitudes, how hard they worked everyday to believe in something. We’ll go down there next weekend and see what happens.”
•WKU fell to 1-12 when trailing at the half while MTSU improved to 23-0 when leading at halftime.
•The Hilltoppers are 2-14 against teams this season with a winning records.
•WKU dropped to 15-1 this season when leading with less than five minutes to play.
•Redshirt junior guard Caden Dickerson is 4-for-21 for 13 points in his last 12 games.
•WKU sophomore forward George Fant surpassed the 700-point mark for his WKU career.