MIAMI – Middle Tennessee (15-15, 8-9 C-USA) let their lead slip early in the second half and never recovered, falling 59-54 at FIU (14-16, 7-10 C-USA) for their second-straight loss.
The Blue Raiders and the Panthers battled early in the first half, trading the lead multiple times. With the game tied at 21, and just less than two minutes left in the first half, freshman Giddy Potts buried a three to give MTSU the 24-21 lead.
Potts buried another three-pointer with three seconds left in the first half to extend the lead for MTSU at the break to 30-24.
In the second half, the Blue Raiders extended their lead to as many as nine, leading 34-25 with 18:35 left in the game. FIU continued to cut into the lead, tying the game 36-36 at the 13:52 mark.
The Panthers regained the lead, extending it multiple times to as many as four. The Blue Raiders tied the game on a pair of free throws by junior Perrin Buford with 4:21 left in the game.
Daviyon Draper gave the Panthers the lead once more on a jumper with one minute left. The last minute of the contest was free-throw laden, with FIU extending the lead to five with just six seconds left. A Jaqawn Raymond turnover sealed the 59-54 victory for the Panthers.
Potts led the Blue Raiders on the night, finishing with 13 points, including three from beyond-the-arc.
Juniors Buford and Raymond both finished with 12 points, and Buford also grabbed eight rebounds in the game.
Free throws were pivotal for FIU in the victory. The Blue Raiders finished the night just 5-of-9 from the line, while the Panthers finished 20-of-29.
MTSU finished 21-of-55 from the field (38 percent). FIU finished shooting 45 percent on the night, going 19-of-42 from the field. Both MTSU and FIU had turnover problems. The Blue Raiders finished with 17, while the Panthers had 15.
Adrian Diaz led all scorers with 17 for FIU, while also grabbing eight rebounds. Dennis Mavin finished with 12 points, including 10 coming from the free-throw line.
The Blue Raiders play their regular-season finale Saturday, as they travel to take on Florida Atlantic. Tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m. CST.
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