Maine took a plane.
Middle Tennessee State drove down a bus for the first game of the Dr Pepper Classic.
Yet the Black Bears played -- especially shot -- as if they were the defacto home team in an 89-85 overtime victory over the Blue Raiders.
"We've been playing pretty well all year, and we played better on the defensive end tonight," Maine coach Ted Woodward said. "We got stops, and we were able to feed off of them.
"We didn't have any droughts tonight."
Sophomore Dimitry Akanda-Coronel scored 27 points, and Zarko Valjarevic added 20 points for the Black Bears, who earned their first Division I win of the season.
It spoiled the efforts of MTSU senior Shawn Jones who scored 16 points and corralled 20 rebounds in the loss. Neiko Hunter scored 20 points, Jaqawn Raymond scored 18 and Kerry Hammonds added 12. Blue Raiders freshman Reggie Upshaw Jr. -- a former Baylor School standout -- scored 10 points in his return to the Scenic City.
"To come back and play in my hometown is a blessing," Upshaw said. "We didn't play defense tonight. We were sitting back and letting them come at us."
Maine will play the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in the championship game tonight at 7 after MTSU plays Grand Canyon University in the consolation game at 4:30 p.m. The Mocs beat Grand Canyon 69-64 in Sunday's second game.
Maine (2-9) shot 32-of-66 from the floor including 14-of-22 from the 3-point line. MTSU did not hit a 3-pointer in the first half and shot 5-of-25 from the arc.
"We didn't come out and play defense with any intensity," MTSU coach Kermit Davis said. "They played better."
Scoring did not come easy for either team in the first half. The Blue Raiders went 0-for-10 from the 3-point line in the first half and 12-of-35 from the floor. The Black Bears hit 11-of-31 from the field but 5-of-7 from the arc which kept them within striking distance.
Yet MTSU (8-5) took a 34-31 lead into halftime. Maine snuck out 48-41 lead less than six minutes into the second half by scoring on seven of its first eight possessions of the second half.
Upshaw tied the game at 54 with a difficult layup which capped a 13-7 run, but Maine inched out to a 67-61 lead. MTSU regained the lead with a 10-2 run including three 3-pointers from Raymond which gave the Blue Raiders a 71-69 lead with 4:35 to play.
Maine forward Killian Cato tied the game at 74 with a dunk. MTSU missed a jumper then Hunter took a charge from Coronel giving MTSU the ball with 32.9 ticks to tock in a tied game.
Maine showed a 1-3-1 look and forced a timeout with 13.7 seconds left. After the break, point guard Tweety Knight drove baseline but stepped out giving Maine 4.6 seconds to win the game. MTSU had two fouls to give and left Maine with 3.6 seconds to go the length of the floor.
It never got the ball over halfcourt.
Maine opened the extra session with a bucket and free throw from Coronel. Then Maine maintained at least a one-point lead for the rest of the game.
MTSU had the ball down two points with 15 seconds left. But Knight lost control of the ball resulting in a turnover.
"We let them get comfortable," Davis said. "Then they starting hitting long 3s."
Contact David Uchiyama at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 423-757-6484. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.
David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...
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