Middle Tennessee dropped a heartbreaker Saturday night as a Giddy Potts effort from deep that would have sent the Raiders and Rams to overtime came up just off the mark and gave VCU an 80-77 win.
Middle Tennessee (10-2) shot the ball well for much of the game, making 49.1 percent of its attempts from the field and 57.1 percent from three, but VCU (8-3) knocked down 52.6 percent of its shots on the evening and sank over 65 percent in the second half.
Junior guard Giddy Potts led MT with 1 25-point performance, going 5-of-7 from three and adding seven rebounds. Senior forward JaCorey Williams had his third consecutive double-double with 17 points and a career-high 14 boards while Reggie Upshaw added 15 and Tyrik Dixon had 12.
“That was a really good college game,” Head Coach Kermit Davis said. “For the second straight year against us they just made the tougher plays.”
After VCU jumped out to a 7-0 lead, Xavier Habersham finally got Middle Tennessee on the board with a layup out of the first media timeout.
VCU wouldn’t slow up just yet though, eventually taking a 21-10 lead at the 10:53 mark behind eight points from JeQuan Lewis.
“We have to start out stronger,” Potts said. “The first few minutes we had five turnovers. We have to start coming out ready to play.”
After another media timeout came and went, Potts began to catch fire and pulled the Blue Raiders back into the game. The junior scored all 17 of his first half points in the final 10 and a half minutes of the half and combined with Dixon for 23 of MT’s final 27 points in the half.
A Potts triple, his third of the game, gave the Raiders their first lead of the night with under a minute remaining before the break, but only momentarily before VCU sank a basket with three seconds on the clock to go into the locker room up 38-37 on MT.
Williams got Middle Tennessee going in the second half but it was Potts who stayed hot, making his first two triples of the second half to put the Blue Raiders up 46-44 at the under 16 media timeout.
Upshaw got going soon after, scoring five straight to put MT up by five, but VCU charged back with eight unanswered to take a 54-51 lead.
Dixon stopped the bleeding with a jumper from the elbow as the shot clock expired and a back-and-forth battle between the Raiders and Rams ensued for the following five minutes until VCU stretched out a 66-62 advantage with 5:24 left.
Middle Tennessee would get back within two a couple of times before the Rams would open up their lead up to six. The Raiders wouldn’t quit there and closed the gap to two on a Williams triple with just seconds remaining.
After VCU’s Mo Alie-Cox sank one of two free throws, a last-ditch effort from Potts rimmed out to hand MT just its second loss of the season.
“We played really hard tonight, they just made some shots at the end,” Potts added. “We had a stretch from about the 10:00 mark to the 5:00 mark where they just played harder.”
“Give VCU credit,” Davis said. “What a wonderful crowd and their team really played hard.”
The Blue Raiders return home for their final non-conference contest on Wednesday when they host Georgia State in a 6:30 p.m. contest.