Photo by Tyler Lamb / Sports Editor
Story by Cody Strickler / Staff Writer
Middle Tennessee (12-3, 2-0 C-USA) started a two-game road trip Thursday night in Houston against the Rice Owls (11-5, 1-2 C-USA) in a battle of C-USA heavyweights. The Blue Raiders were down by 11 at one point in the first half, but battled back and won by a score of 80-77.
The final minute of the game tested the mental toughness of Middle Tennessee, as the Blue Raiders were sent to the line several times with the Owls attempting to come back.
With MTSU leading by four, Rice guard Marcus Evans made a three-pointer to pull Rice within one with one second left in regulation. Junior guard Giddy Potts appeared to run the clock out but upon official review, it was determined that he was fouled before time ran out.
The referees reset the clock to 0.9 seconds and Potts stepped to the line. He calmly sank both shots and the Owls failed to get a shot off, leading to the Blue Raider victory.
In a game filled with runs, the teams fought back and forth in the beginning as Rice took an early three-point lead. Middle Tennessee got into an offensive groove, producing a 9-5 run that gave them a five-point lead at the 9:51 mark of the first half. Rice refused to quit, however, stringing together a 20-5 run to give them their biggest lead of the game at 36-25.
Potts and fellow guard Antwain Johnson hit back-to-back threes to pull the Blue Raiders within 38-34 at halftime.
After the half, the Raiders went on a 25-8 run in the first nine minutes of the half to take the biggest lead by either team at 59-46. Rice fought their way back into the game, but it was the Blue Raiders who held serve and walked out with a victory.
Reggie Upshaw led the way in scoring with 20 points and seven boards, with 18 of his 20 coming in the second half. JaCorey Williams added 18 points, four rebounds and a team-high five assists, with Potts recording 17 points on 3-of-6 shooting from deep.
Rice’s Egor Koulechov led all scorers with a double-double of 31 points and 14 rebounds. Evans added 23 points and five 3-pointers for Rice, which saw no one else score in double figures.
The Raiders will conclude their two-game road trip on Saturday against the North Texas Mean Green (6-9, 0-3) in Denton, Texas. Tip-off is set for 3 p.m.
For more sports stories, follow us at www.mtsusidelines.com, on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines and on Twitter at @Sidelines_Sport.
To contact Sports Editor Tyler Lamb (@Tlamb35), email email@example.com.