HOUSTON – A career-high 22 points and career-high tying 12 rebounds from Reggie Scurry, both game highs in Houston, weren’t enough for Middle Tennessee to earn a road win at Rice Thursday evening as the Owls earned a 79-68 win on their home floor.
The Blue Raiders (5-15, 2-5 C-USA) converted on 26 of 55 field goal attempts (.400) on the evening and hit just 7 of 23 3-point attempts (.304) while giving up a whopping 28 bench points to the Owls (8-12, 3-4 C-USA) and losing the rebounding battle 39-38.
Scurry kept MT afloat early on, pouring in 12 of the first 22 points of the game for the Blue Raiders. His 12 first half points led all scorers while his eight rebounds before the break were also a game-high through 20 minutes.
“I’m starting to be really aggressive again,” Scurry said about his performance. “A year ago I was in bed dealing with the injury to my feet not knowing if I would play again. You never know when your last game might be and it’s a blessing to be able to keep playing this game.”
While Scurry got things rolling, leading scorer Antonio Green (18.5) couldn’t buy a bucket as he started the game 0 for 7 from the field and 0 for 4 from 3-point range before a fast break layup at the 8:24 mark finally got him on the board.
Scurry’s last jumper of the half, coming with 5:24 on the game clock, pulled MT within one at 23-22 before a pair of Rice free throws made the deficit three once again. It was at that point Green would begin to come a factor.
Back-to-back triples from the Tupelo, Miss., native put MT on top by three and after a Rice triple tied it back up the Raiders held the Owls scoreless for over three minutes while opening up a 6-0 run to gain their largest lead of the game to that point.
Rice would finish the half off with a fast break layup bringing the score to 34-30. Green tallied 10 points before the break, eight of which came in MT’s 12-5 run leading into the locker room.
It was Scurry who would get the Blue Raiders going once again after the break as he tallied five of MT’s first seven second half points highlighted by his third dunk of the night.
Middle Tennessee had opened an 8-point advantage as the clock ticked under 17 minutes, but would fall cold with the help of some calls that didn’t go their way.
A 19-3 Rice run in which an old-fashioned 3-point play by Jayce Johnson were the only points for MT saw and 8-point lead quickly turn into an 8-point deficit.
The Blue Raiders would respond with a 9-0 run capped by a Scurry free throw, giving him his career-high 20th point and MT a 1-point lead, but they gave it right back as the Owls went on a 14-0 streak to take a 68-55 lead into the final media timeout.
“It was that 14-0 run that was really the game,” Head Coach Nick McDevitt said. “We did some nice things for 30-plus minutes but you have to be able to battle through some runs, particularly on the road.”
After a pair of Rice free throws made the deficit 15 with just over three minutes remaining, it was going to take a miracle to get back in the game. Donovan Sims tried to spark it with a 3-pointer from the wing, his second of the game, but MT didn’t have an answer on the defensive end down the stretch.
The Owls would ice it at the free throw line with a 9 for 10 mark at the charity stripe in the final five minutes at Tudor Fieldhouse.
Senior Karl Gamble and Green joined Scurry in double-digits on the evening with 13 and 10, respectively, while freshman Junior Farquhar tallied eight points, seven rebounds, two assists and one steal.
“Reggie was great again tonight,” McDevitt added. “He’s really starting to play aggressive and our team needs that.
“Junior Farquhar was excellent as well with eight points and had a really nice effort play in the first half for us. I was a little worried when he tweaked his ankle but he was able to return for us and give us some more good minutes.”
Rice’s freshman duo of Chris Mullins and Trey Murphy proved to be the undoing of the Blue Raiders, combining for 37 points on just 19 shots for the Owls.
Middle Tennessee now faces a tall task to finish off the Texas road swing as they head north to face a North Texas team (17-3, 5-2 C-USA) looking to bounce back from a 3-point home loss to UAB.
Saturday’s contest against the Mean Green will tip at 5:00 p.m. and can be streamed on ESPN+.