Men’s Basketball: Raiders dominate in season-opening exhibition against Arkansas Fort Smith

Senior Nick King slams the ball down in traffic against Arkansas Fort Smith on Nov. 2, 2017 in Murfreesboro, Tenn. (Devin P. Grimes / MTSU Sidelines)

Photo by Devin P. Grimes / MTSU Sidelines

Story by Carl Coates / Sports Reporter

The Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders stepped foot on the hardwood for first time this season on Thursday evening against the Arkansas Fort Smith Lions. Middle Tennessee came in with a younger squad to start the season and there was excitement and anticipation in the air. That was matched on court, as the Blue Raiders took home an 85-55 win over the Lions.

MTSU came out scorching from the three-point line to begin the game, connecting on four of seven attempts to open in the first four and a half minutes.

Most notably, senior leader Giddy Potts picked up where he left off from last season. Throughout the first half, his new level of aggression shined on the offensive end. With no hesitation, he was confidently letting it fly from deep. By the end of the first half, the guard posted 17 first-half points while shooting 62.5 percent from the field, including blistering 83 percent from long range.

After settling in on the pace of the game, the teams begin to show a respectable defensive effort as well. Transfer Nick King and junior guard Antwain Johnson both swatted away two attempts at the rim to lead the effort.

Despite the positive results from both sides of the ball, the Raiders only managed to only hit 59 percent of their free throws. This led to struggles early on, and Middle Tennessee went into half only leading by a score of 41-26.

The entire second half belonged to the Blue Raiders. The team began to control the pace of the game by dumping the ball inside, mainly to King. Although he had a solid game in the paint by recording a total of 16 points, the forward recognized it took time to get into rhythm.

“We came out there with a lot of jitters,” King said. “In the second half, we started to move the ball more and communicated better. Towards the end of the game, everything started flowing into our favor.”

The new faces of this year’s team all registered some minutes. Junior transfer James Hawthorne delivered a spark coming off of the bench by connecting on all of his scoring attempts for a total of ten points.

To close out the remainder of the contest, Middle Tennessee capitalized off of majority of the Lions turnovers. Most of them led to breakaway dunks and alley-oops.

Overall, it was a great night for the entire team, as Potts finishing with 25 points. It wasn’t great for everyone however, sophomore Tyrik Dixon and senior Edward Simpson combined for only five points.

Blue Raiders head coach Kermit Davis felt that this exhibition game was beneficial for their growth. This game also opened up competition among the Blue Raiders themselves.

“Guys are really going to be competing over the next six or seven days for minutes going into the regular season,” Davis said. “It will be a constant battle throughout the rest of the year.”

The Blue Raiders will play their second home game next Friday against the Trojans of Trevecca Nazarene University. Tip-off is set to start at 11 a.m.

To contact Sports Editor Rusty Ellis, email

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