Middle Tennessee (2-1) overpowered Southern University (1-3) Saturday with a 66-48 victory in the opening game of the Emerald Coast Classic at the Murphy Center.
The offense led the way for the Blue Raiders. They made five of their first six shots and got out to a 13-5 lead. MTSU would shoot 43 percent (23-of-53) from the field on the night.
Nine different players scored for MTSU in the first half, and Marcus Tarrance, Perrin Buford and Edward Simpson recorded career highs in points.
The main contributor for the Blue Raiders was Tarrance, who had a career night. He poured in a career-high 18 points and secured a career-high six rebounds. Tarrance went 5-of-5 from the field (career-high), including 2-of-2 from three-point range.
Buford and Simpson also provided the Blue Raiders with some much-needed offense. Both were making their first career starts, and they did not disappoint.
Buford scored nine points (4-of-5) including his first career three-pointer. Simpson tallied up double digits, scoring 10 points (4-of-6) and hit two three-pointers.
MTSU started the game fast and never looked back. They opened the game up on a 13-5 run heading into the first media timeout.
Buford scored four early points, making a shot on back-to-back possessions. Tarrance then replaced him and proceeded to drain a three-pointer and two free throws to give the Blue Raiders the early lead.
The Blue Raiders would push their lead to as much as 17 in the first half, going up 28-11. However, Southern would continue to battle and keep the MTSU lead around 10. The Blue Raiders would go in at halftime leading 37-28.
The second half would be all MTSU. They came out firing and used an 8-0 run to go up 46-27 with 18 minutes remaining. The early run was powered by a pair of Simpson three-pointers.
MTSU would push the lead to as much as 23. Southern did not give up though, going on a 7-0 run late in the second half, but the Blue Raiders would recover and cruise to the victory.
While the Blue Raider offense was impressive, their defense was no slouch either. They held the Jaguars to 33 percent on the night and only allowed five field goals in the second half.
Middle Tennessee also out-rebounded Southern 40-27 and tallied 11 second-chance points.
MTSU will continue play in the Emerald Coast Classic on Tuesday night when they host Northern Arizona inside the Murphy Center at 7 p.m.
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To contact sports editor Connor Grott, email firstname.lastname@example.org