Photo by David Chamberlain / MTSU Sidelines
The college basketball season is officially underway, and the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (1-0) made a strong opening statement with a 104-52 blowout win against the Trevecca Trojans Friday morning.
Nick King led all scorers with 17 points and recorded a game-high six rebounds. The Blue Raiders were clicking from all cylinders from start to finish, as they shot 52.9 percent from the field.
The defense also appeared to be in midseason form as they held the Trojans to only 52 points on 34.1 percent shooting and forced 22 turnovers. Trevecca was locked down by the MT defense for most of the game and had four different scoring droughts of two minutes or more.
One of those droughts saw the Trojans go over five minutes without a bucket, something that helped the Blue Raiders ice the game early.
“Coach Davis really talked about defense in the scouting report,” said senior Giddy Potts. “We just stopped giving up line drives to the basket in the first half and made them take tough (shots). We were just able to get out in transition and score buckets.”
Despite the 52-point blowout win, head coach Kermit Davis believes the team has room to improve.
“Our team has a long ways to go,” Davis said. “I thought Trevecca hung in there and fought, but I think the depth of our bench just wore them down.”
The bench played a crucial role in securing the win. Everyone shared the wealth as the Blue Raiders had 11 players score points during the game, with seven of those players scoring eight points or more.
Blue Raiders start off hot
The Blue Raiders got off to a quick start against the Trojans. They jumped out to a 23-6 lead after the first eight-and-a-half minutes of play.
MT shot the lights out of the Murphy Center during that run, making nine of their 12 shots from the field and three of five from three-point range.
Potts and Ed Simpson knocked down three three-pointers between the two of them in the first eight minutes to give MT a quick double-digit lead. The Blue Raiders cooled off as Trevecca pulled within nine points by a score of 29-20 with 7:20 left to play in the half, but the MT defense stepped up and held the Trojans without a field goal for a 5:38 stretch.
During this run, Middle Tennessee pushed the lead to 47-25 and didn’t look back. The first half was capped off by a Tyrik Dixon three-pointer at the buzzer, which put the home team up 51-28 going into the halftime intermission.
@tyrikdixon0 nails the buzzer-beater to put MT up 51-28 at half!
👌👌👌 = 🔥🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/lJkOk79dl5
— Rusty Ellis (@RustyEllis13) November 10, 2017
Antwain Johnson provides spark off the bench
Antwain Johnson was the highlight of the first half for either team. With a couple of emphatic dunks and 14 points on 6-7 shooting from the field, Johnson provided the big boost off the bench that helped the Blue Raiders extend their first-half lead to 23 by halftime.
The second half was more of the same for Johnson, as he finished the game with 16 points on 6-8 shooting along with three assists, a couple of highlight reel dunks and a rebound in only 20 minutes of action.
— Rusty Ellis (@RustyEllis13) November 10, 2017
Johnson looks to be the Blue Raiders top scoring option off the bench this season and will play a key role as the sixth man.
Kermit Davis even floated around the idea of starting Johnson after today’s game.
“Antwain Johnson is a starter. He may start on Monday night,” Davis said. “He’s a value player who’s explosive and can shoot, and he’s just getting better.”
Johnson’s effort off the bench was also greatly appreciated by his teammates.
“Guys like (Johnson) made shots,” Potts said. “I’d say our bench played well tonight.”
Nick King shines in Blue Raider debut
The former Memphis Tiger, Alabama Crimson Tide and ESPN top 40 recruit looked like he was right at home in his first game as a MTSU Blue Raider.
King scored a game-high 17 points and grabbed six boards, while shooting 6-9 from the field and 5-7 from the free throw line. The senior also expressed his comfort level with the team and how he’s been able to fit in with only a short time on campus.
“I feel like I gelled well,” King said. “Ever since I got here, we’ve been gelling on and off the court. Once the ball gets tipped, it’s just poetry in motion.”
Davis has also taken note of King’s positive fit with his teammates, but he knows that there is still room for improvement.
“He’s a great teammate, he pulls for his teammates and he’s a great voice in the gym,” Davis said. “I think he’s knocking some rust off … The competition is going to pick up on Monday night with physical post guys, and he’s going to have to move his feet and be more physical or we’re going to be in foul trouble.”
The Blue Raiders will be back in action on Monday when they travel to take on the Murray State Racers at 7 p.m.