Story by Tyler Lamb // Contributing Writer | Photo by Sarah Grace Taylor // Managing Editor
Middle Tennessee (14-5, 6-1 C-USA) took on the Rice Owls (6-14, 1-6 C-USA) Saturday night at Murphy Center and were looking to extend their win-streak to six games. The Blue Raiders took the game early in the first half and kept the momentum up late, eventually winning 87-73.
Despite frigid temperatures Saturday night, fans made their way to Murphy Center for the Coaches vs. Cancer game. The spectacular shooting night from Middle Tennessee’s “Big Three” keyed the way to another big win in conference play.
The game started off with the lead exchanging four different times within 10 minutes. Rice collapsed mid-way through the first half, and the Blue Raiders took advantage of this by going up 31-16 after capping off a 19-0 run. They had a solid first half, shooting 54 percent heading into the break compared to just 32 percent from the Owls.
“Our first 20 minutes, that’s about as good as we’ve played. This Rice team came out determined in the first twenty minutes,” Head Coach Kermit Davis said after the win. “They stayed determined for 40 minutes. I thought our team did a great job getting into a rhythm.”
MT Athletics, along with the marketing staff, turned Colin Cowherd’s comments this week into a fundraising opportunity Saturday. A silent auction was held, with three winners earning the chance to throw a pie at a cut-out of the radio host. Athletic Director Chris Massaro joined the three in throwing the pies during halftime.
As a whole, over $1,300 was raised during Saturday’s game for cancer research.
The Blue Raiders expanded the halftime lead to 26 points before Giddy Potts picked up his third foul at the 16-minute mark of the second half. With Potts off the floor, Rice mounted a small comeback, cutting the lead down to just 11 with a little over 10 minutes left in the game.
With just under 14 minutes remaining, the Blue Raiders saw their lead slipping. Reggie Upshaw and Perrin Buford made a statement to all of Murphy Center as Upshaw responded to the run by stealing the ball and passing a perfect alley-oop to Buford on the break, which ultimately gave the momentum back to the Blue Raiders.
It wasn’t until Giddy Potts returned to the floor that he abruptly halted the Rice comeback, sparking the team and the crowd with new energy.
“I thought [Potts] played really well with three fouls and with about 12 minutes to go, we put him back in the game,” Davis said. “He was determined. He was physical. He sprinted his tail back and got back defensively.”
Potts led the way with 27 points, 17 of which came in the second half. Perrin Buford followed closely behind with 23 points.
Middle Tennessee hits the road again next week when they play at Marshall (10-10, 6-1 C-USA) on Thursday, Jan. 28, at 6 p.m.
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