Rise and shine, ‘Nova Nation. The ‘Cats certainly didn’t have any difficulties getting up early for the 11:30 am tip-off today as they defeated Middle Tennessee in the opening game of the Myrtle Beach Invitational 98-69.
Still feeling down after their slow start against Ohio State? Watch the first ten minutes of this game. Collin Gillespie started off hot, scoring the first 8 points of the game including a pair of three-pointers. The Blue Raiders responded with a layup, but ‘Nova scored the next 9 points and before your coffee pot was even done warming up, they had jumped to a 17-2 lead.
Freshman Bryan Antoine made his first appearance much earlier than most anticipated, checking in with just over 14 minutes remaining in the half, although he missed his only shot of the half. The lead swelled to 20 after Cole Swider drilled a three-pointer from the corner. Both teams stalled for a few minutes with neither side able to come up with points, and the Blue Raiders chipped the lead down to 13 after two straight three-pointers from Donovan Sims. However, the ‘Cats continued with the hot hands from behind the arc, this time lead by sophomore Cole Swider, and took a 53-28 lead going into the half.
Swider lead the ‘Cats with 21 points in the first half, shooting 5-6 from behind the arc. As a team, the ‘Cats shot an impressive 52% from behind the arc. Gillespie and freshman Justin Moore were also already in double-figures, with 14 and 10 points respectively. The team shot 61% from the floor as a whole and assisted on 16 of their 20 field goals.
The momentum kept rolling in the Wildcats’ favor in the second half as they continued spreading the ball, driving to the paint, and draining three-pointers. Bryan Antoine got his first points as a Wildcat with an emphatic steal and dunk in transition, and finished with 9 points on the game. The points were spread wide and far in the second half as 10 players recorded at least a point for the team. Little ‘Arch made an appearance towards the end of the game and sunk a three-pointer, sending the ‘Nova fans in attendance into a frenzy.
The defense held strong for the most part in the second half, holding the Blue Raiders to only 41% from the field and forcing 15 turnovers on the game.
Swider finished with a career-high 26 points on 10-15 shooting from the floor, and Gillespie finished with 16 points, shooting 4-6 from behind the arc and also recorded 7 assists. Justin Moore had another great game, tallying 15 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists. Freshman Jeremiah Robinson-Earl added 6 points but had a game-high 11 rebounds.
The ‘Cats looked like they pulled everything together after the disaster against Ohio State and seem to be clicking with everyone back together and healthy. They play again on Friday 11/22 at 2:30 PM against the winner of the Mississippi State and Tulane game.