GAINESVILLE, Fla. – No. 16/14 Florida (4-1) handed the Middle Tennessee men’s basketball team (4-1) its first loss of the 2013-14 season as the Blue Raiders dropped a 79-59 decision inside the O’Connell Center Thursday night, ending the nation’s longest road winning streak at eight.
Florida ended MT’s eight-game road winning streak, which was tops in the nation for active consecutive road wins. The victory extended UF’s home winning streak to 19, which is tied for the fourth longest in the country.
The Gators started to run away with the game early into the second half, taking a 20-point lead with 14:33 to play. However, MT’s Jaqawan Raymond stepped up, stringing together four three-pointers over a four minute span to cut the Florida lead to 12 at 58-46 with 9:44 left. Unfortunately for the Blue Raiders, the momentum shifted back to the home team a few seconds later after a jumper from UF’s Dorian Finney-Smith followed by a Gator steal.
Raymond went on to post 13 points on the night, going 4-for-9 from long distance, while Neiko Hunter led Middle Tennessee with 14 points and a team-best five rebound. Hunter went 5-for-11 from the floor and 4-for-6 from the charity stripe. The breakout performance of the night for the Raiders came from freshman Eric Wortham Jr., who put up a career-high 11 points.
“I just thought that the first half we guarded well enough, but we were just so bad offensively,” said MT head coach Kermit Davis. “You know you’ve got to get your core guys scoring when you’re on the road at a top-15 team in the country and we just didn’t get what we had hoped for out of those guys tonight. I give Florida a lot of credit; they had lead a lot of the game. They’ve got great size on the perimeter and just bodied us. They’re just big.”
Both teams struggled from the floor in the opening minutes of the first half with the first field goal not coming until Florida’s Patric Young hit a bucket at the 17:08 mark. However, MT managed to get on the board first with a pair of free throws from Shawn Jones just 30 seconds before Young’s basket. The Gators held an 8-4 lead at the second media timeout with just under 12 minutes until the break. The contest didn’t reach double-figures until the 9:54 mark in the first half, when UF’s Michael Frazier hit a pair at the line to give the Gators a 10-5 lead.
The Blue Raiders had a seven minute drought in the first half, going without a field goal from 16:54 to 9:31. Torin Walker snapped the drought, hitting a bucket underneath to cut the MT deficit to 10-7.
At the intermission, Florida took a 34-26 lead into the locker room, but it was the second half when the Gators really got things going. UF outscored MT in the second stanza 45-33, shooting 64.0-percent from the floor compared to the Blue Raiders’ 44.4-percent.
On the night, MT shot 42.6-percent, going 10-for-47, while shooting 31.6-percent (6-19) from long distance. UF was 50.0-percent from the floor and 33.3-percent from three-point range. The Gators beat the Raiders at the line too, shooting 83.3-percent (25-30) compared to 72.2-percent (13-18). Florida also won the battle of the boards 31-26. However, the contest came down to points in the paint as the Gators outscored the Blue Raiders 34-20 inside.
Middle Tennessee will be back in action Nov. 26, traveling to Murray State for a 7:30 p.m. contest.