Kanaskie leads Middle Tennessee to 82-73 win over South Alabama
MOBILE, Ala. (AP)—Kevin Kanaskie had 23 points to lead Middle Tennessee to an 82-73 win over South Alabama in the Sun Belt Conference semifinals Monday night.
The underdog Blue Raiders shattered the Jaguars’ dream of winning the Sun Belt Conference title and getting an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. MTSU improved to 17-15, while South Alabama, which saw its six-game winning streak end, dropped to 26-5.
The Blue Raiders face Western Kentucky, a 70-55 winner over Arkansas-Little Rock, in Tuesday night’s finals at 8 p.m.
Kanaskie was 10-of-12 from the free throw line and led four MTSU players in double figures. Demetrius Green had 21, Nigel Johnson 19, and Desmond Yates 12.
South Alabama was led by Demetric Bennett’s game-high 32 points. But he was the only Jaguar in double figures as USA managed to shoot only 46.4 percent from the field, including a miserable 5 of 22, or 22.7 percent, from 3-point range.
MTSU was 28 of 34 from the free throw line, while USA was 16 of 23.
Middle Tennessee led by seven twice in the first half before South Alabama battled back and took a 32-31 lead on a Bennett basket.
After the Blue Raiders regained the lead on Green’s 3-pointer, the Jags battled back and tied the game twice. But Kanaskie nailed another 3-pointer to put MTSU up 39-36.
USA fought back and eventually regained the lead on Dominic Tilford’s running layup. The Jaguars led by as many as three before Johnson’s basket trimmed the lead to one just before the half.
Johnson’s 3-pointer early in the second half put the Blue Raiders up 44-42. MTSU went up by nine before USA went on a 6-0 run to trim the lead to three. The Jags, however, would get no closer as they were forced to foul and the Blue Raiders went 6 of 8 from the free throw line in the last two minutes.