Story by Tyler Lamb // Contributing Writer
Photo by Meagan White // Staff Photographer
Middle Tennessee (17-6, 9-2 C-USA) defeated Florida International (11-13, 5-6 C-USA) 67-66 on Saturday night in thrilling fashion. Giddy Potts opened and closed Saturday’s scoring, sinking the game-winning free throw with 4.5 seconds remaining in regulation.
Potts drilled three straight three-pointers, giving the Blue Raiders an early 9-4 lead. Potts was on fire on both ends of the floor, but at the 13-minute mark, Potts found himself with 2 fouls and his first half was over. Nevertheless, with having only played six minutes, Potts lead the team in scoring at halftime.
Coming into tonight’s matchup, FIU had three players averaging 15 or more points per game. Daviyon Draper was the big story of the night for the Panthers, leading them with 25 points.
After Potts sat down, Draper, along with Donte Mcgill, propelled the Golden Panthers back into the game, cutting Middle Tennessee’s lead to 33-30 at halftime.
Under two minutes into the second half, Jacob Ivory tossed an ally-oop to Perrin Buford that electrified the crowd and extended their lead.
Following the alley-oop, the Blue Raiders were held scoreless for over five minutes, allowing the Golden Panthers to take the lead. Senior guard Perrin Buford broke the scoring streak, and was the only MTSU player to score for a few minutes thereafter. Buford carried the team in their late comeback on a night when foul trouble plagued most of the key scorers.
“I thought Perrin [Buford] had an unbelievable weekend,” Head coach Kermit Davis said. “He was our best player in practice. He was the best player the other night. He’s doing a lot of different things. He’s playing like an all-league player right now.”
Coach Davis decided to put Darnell Harris back in the game, after sitting on the bench with three fouls. His impact was immediate, knocking down a huge three-pointer to put the Blue Raiders down by six. Potts and Harris hit two more three-pointers that surged Middle Tennessee into a memorable late game come back.
On a night when Reggie Upshaw struggled from the field, he made one of the biggest baskets of the night, putting he Raiders up 63-62 with 3:03 left in the game.
“That 1-3-1 [zone] has won us so many games the past 7 or 8 years… We wouldn’t have won the game without it.”
The two teams traded baskets with under two minutes left to play. With eight seconds left, FIU’s Draper hit a running layup to tie the game up at 66.
With no timeouts left, Potts tried to race down the floor for the last second shot, but he was fouled before he crossed half court. Potts went to the line with a chance to win the game.
Potts sunk the first, but missed second of the one-and-one, giving MTSU the 67-66 lead. Draper raced down the floor, got a mid-range floater off, but it missed the rim altogether.
“I was just thinking, ‘I gotta make this free throw’,” Potts said. “Coach told me at practice I have to work on [free throws]. I made the first one, missed the second one, but glad my team came out with a win.”
The Blue Raiders get a few days off before going back on the road Thursday night against conference foe Louisiana Tech (17-6, 6-4 C-USA).
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