By Connor Ulrey//Contributing Writer
NICEVILLE, Fla. — Middle Tennessee’s men’s basketball could not match the Cincinnati Bearcats from the beginning Friday, ultimately falling 69-51 in game three of the Emerald Coast Classic.
Cincinnati (5-0) came out strong and got out to a 12-0 lead before the first point for MTSU came on a Joshua Phillips free throw with 11:42 to go in the first half.
The lone bright spot for the Raiders proved to be junior transfer Darnell Harris, who led all scorers with 15 points in the game. Harris finished 5-of-7 from three-point range in 22 total minutes of action.
Middle Tennessee (3-2) fought back early after a strong start from the Bearcats after a quick transition three from Jaqawn Raymond and a dunk by Jacquez Rozier cut the lead to eight at the under-eight media timeout.
Cincinnati responded with a 6-0 run of their own to extend the lead to 39-17 at halftime. Harris led the Blue Raiders at halftime with six of their 17 points, and was 2-of-2 from behind the arc.
Also contributing in the first half were Phillips and Raymond, who had four points apiece.
Throughout the game Cincinnati was dominant inside, finishing with eight blocks and out-rebounding the Blue Raiders 34-24.
Troy Caupain led the Bearcats with 11 points in the game, while at least six other players added five or more points for Cincinnati. The balance for the Bearcats showed as all but one player scored at least one point Friday afternoon.
The Blue Raiders played better in the second half and outscored the Bearcats 34-30, but it proved to be too late for Middle Tennessee.
Their trip to Niceville, Florida will end Saturday night as the Blue Raiders face No. 23 Creighton, a team that was defeated by Ole Miss on Friday night.
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