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January 23, 2010

MT's history making win opens door for more

Desmond Yates is now the most prolific scorer in Middle Tennessee basketball history and the Blue Raiders suddenly are surging at the midpoint of the Sun Belt Conference race.

My how things can change over the course of a week.

This time last week, MT was reeling from consecutive home losses to Florida International and Florida Atlantic, the latter game ending in defeat after a squandered 11 point lead.

With a resounding 84-74 win over Western Kentucky on Saturday at Diddle Arena, MT polished off its third straight win and Yates zoomed past Kerry Hammonds and Robert Taylor for first place on MT's all-time scoring chart.

Prior to Saturday, MT had only swept a regular season two-game series from WKU four times in program history.

Accomplishing the feat for the fifth time was sweet for MT on numerous levels.

The Blue Raiders pulled the trick in a six day span, with a road win at ULM sprinkled in between.

They did it behind a 28 point effort from Yates in front of a national television audience that was exposed to plenty of discussion about MT's basketball greats.

But more importantly, they kept pace at the top of the Sun Belt standings.

It would be hard to diagram a more perfect week for the Raiders, and it would be hard to diagram a more perfect day for them than Saturday.

After MT had put the finishing touches on its convincing win in Bowling Green, the rest of the Sun Belt action in the day fell mostly in the Raiders' favor.

Arkansas State dropped a road game at Florida Atlantic, putting MT within a half-game of the overall Sun Belt lead and keeping the Raiders even with the Owls in the East division.

South Alabama lost at Denver, sending the Jaguars another game back in the division race. Ditto for Troy, which lost a road game at Louisiana-Lafayette.

Despite an up-and-down and at times frustrating start to the season, the door of opportunity is now open for the Raiders.

A three game homestand upcoming provides them the opportunity to nudge that door open a little more.

MT's next three games are against New Orleans, North Texas and Troy, all inside Murphy Center.

It provides the Raiders a chance at a mulligan after they dropped the first two games of last week's three game homestand.

If one thing is certain about this team, it's that it's not safe to look past one game (much less three), but it's impossible not to think about the situation the Raiders would be in if they can sweep the homestand.

It would make them 9-3 in the league and very likely put them alone at the top of the Sun Belt, a spot that would net at least an automatic NIT bid at the end of the season.

However, the race is just at the halfway mark and there are several laps around the track still to go.

But with an extraordinarily impressive week of basketball, MT has put itself in a position few thought possible seven days ago.


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