Photo by Joi Williams / MTSU Sidelines
On Thursday night, the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (21-5, 13-1) went on the road to take on the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles (13-14,6-8). It was a back-and-forth affair, but in the end, MTSU escaped with a 72-62 win.
Both teams knocked down three shots from behind the arc early, including two from MTSU guard Tyrik Dixon. Even with the early offense, the Golden Eagles jumped out to a 16-13 with 13:18 left in the first half.
Freshman Donovan Sims provided a small offensive spark off the bench to give MT an 18-16 advantage, but he was unable to spark the Blue Raiders’ defense. After failing to capitalize on four of the Golden Eagles’ turnovers, MT surrendered a 15-4 run and found themselves in a 31-22 hole with 7:53 remaining in the first stanza.
Southern Miss seemed to make everything early in the game, and they were shooting 50 percent from the field at one point.
Johnson sunk a three-pointer, and King finished a layup to go on a quick 5-0 run. Moments later, King finished a layup through contact and made the free throw to cut the deficit down to 35-31 late in the first half.
Next, it was Potts’ turn to put his stamp on the first half. He knocked down a three to trim it to a one-point game, but he wasn’t done. The senior drained another triple with just three seconds on the clock to give the Blue Raiders a 37-36 lead going into the locker room.
When leading at the half this season, MTSU boasts a 13-1 record. That’s a mark that bodes well with tournament play looming.
After trailing 40-39 at the start of the second half, Dixon made another big shot to give Middle a 41-40 lead.
It continued to be a back-and-forth game, as Johnson knocked down his third three of the game for a 48-46 lead. After falling behind a few minutes later, junior David Simmons sank a three-pointer to put MT back up 53-52 with 11:02 remaining in the game.
Southern Miss refused to quit and tied the game at 62, but that was the final time they scored in the game. Middle Tennessee closed the game on a 10-0 run to continue their dominance of the conference with a 72-62 win over USM.
King continues solid play with double-double
Coming off a 32-point outing in a win against North Texas, King finished this game with 20 points and 11 rebounds for his ninth double-double of the season.
King rebounded from the last meeting against USM, a game in which he scored a season-low six points.
King is third in the C-USA in scoring with 21.3.
Three-headed guard attack proves key in victory
Dixon, Johnson and Potts all were crucial in this win, as they combined for 38 points and nine assists.
Dixon finished the game with 12 points and knocked down two three-pointers, while Potts and Johnson scored 13 points and made three long-range shots apiece.
This is the type of game that proves the Blue Raiders don’t need King to score a ton every night, because they have other players that are capable of stepping up. If they continue this growth and high level of play, Middle Tennessee could be looking at another tournament championship in March.
The Blue Raiders will travel Ruston, Louisiana, to take on Louisiana Tech Saturday night at 6 p.m.
Follow MTSU Sports Reporter Logan Ward on Twitter at @lward98_ward.
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