Middle Tennessee moved to 6-0 in Conference USA competition and 3-0 in league road games Thursday night with a 65-52 win at FIU.
The Blue Raiders (16-3, 6-0) shot 51.1 percent in the contest and held the Panthers (4-15, 0-6) to 39.6 percent from the field. MT shot 82.4 percent from the free throw line and outrebounded FIU 32-24.
Senior JaCorey Williams led the way with 21 points and eight rebounds on the evening. Giddy Potts added 11 points and five rebounds while Reggie Upshaw finished with 10 and six.
Freshman point guard Tyrik Dixon totaled nine points, four rebounds and three assists on the evening.
Middle Tennessee totaled 15 assists to 12 turnovers on the night while FIU collected just nine assists.
“The 15 assists to 12 turnovers wasn’t great, but it was a low possession game,” Head Coach Kermit Davis said. “Our 13 defense was so good tonight.
“I thought FIU did a good job defensively against us as well. They definitely took us out of some sets that we usually like to run.”
The Blue Raiders jumped out to a 9-1 run before the Panthers converted their first field goal nearly three minutes into the game.
Middle Tennessee’s big three each got going early, combining for the first 13 Blue Raider points and 29 of their 37 in the first half.
After FIU took a 21-20 lead and then tied the game at 25 apiece, Middle Tennessee went on a 12-0 run fueled by six points from Williams and four from Potts to finish out the first 20 minutes.
“Coach told us that they were going to give us their best shot and they did,” Williams said. “Early on they kind of got the best of us but we were able to slow them down.”
“Coach didn’t think we were playing with a lot of energy so we started going into the paint more and getting good shots,” Williams said about the 12-0 run.
MT held the Panthers to 39 percent from the field and just 1-of-8 from long range before the break while the Raiders shot 48 percent and went a perfect 8-of-8 from the charity stripe.
Middle Tennessee took a 42-29 lead early in the second half before FIU hit their first field goal in just shy of 10 minutes dating back to the 5:36 mark in the opening half. The Panthers scored just four points over that span off of four free throws.
A thunderous slam by Williams gave the Blue Raiders their biggest lead of the game, holding a 53-35 advantage with 10:57 remaining.
FIU began to sneak back into the game with a 10-2 run closing the gap to 10 with 6:52 remaining in the contest, but Williams got the Blue Raiders back on track with a basket off an inbounds play late in the shot clock.
The senior scored again on the next possession to notch his second straight 20-point outing and the Blue Raider defense wouldn’t allow the Panthers any closer than 12 for the remainder of the game.
Middle Tennessee finishes the Florida swing at Florida Atlantic on Saturday in a 6:00 p.m. CT contest.