MURRAY, Ky. – The Middle Tennessee men’s basketball team (5-1) closed out the first half on a 13-2 run and continued the pressure Tuesday night against the Murray State Racers (2-4) on the way to an 80-62 victory in the CFSB Center.
Middle Tennessee received career-high performances from freshman guard Eric Wortham, Jr., and junior forward Jacquez Rozier. Rozier chipped in four points during the 13-2 spurt en route to a career-best 12 points overall. He completed the double-double, snagging a game-high and personal-best 10 rebounds for the first double-dip of his career, while Wortham put up a game-best and career-high 17 points, all coming in the second half.
“I have a lot of respect for (Murray State head coach) Steve Prohm, his staff and his program,” said MT head coach Kermit Davis “He’s just been good for a number of years. I had a Murray State fan come up to me after the game. He said, ‘Congratulations. I’ve been coming to games here for over 30 years and I’ve never seen a team come in and hold their margin of victory like that.’ I’m proud of our guys. We got our loose balls back in our game. We got our rebounding back in our game. We had a good offense, balanced scoring, and really good bench play.”
In addition to the career-best performances, three other Blue Raiders scored double-figures as Neiko Hunter also tallied a game-high 17 points, while Shawn Jones and Tweety Knight kicked in 12 and 11 points, respectively. Jones flirted with a double-double, pulling down eight boards to go along with two blocked shots.
Both squads swapped points for the opening five minutes of the contest, but MT took the lead for good with 15:01 remaining in the first half, when Jones put away a short jumper thanks to an assist by Knight. The bucket started a run that helped the Raiders get the lead to seven with eight minutes remaining in the first stanza. However, the Racers went to work, closing the lead to 25-22 with 6:25 until halftime.
Behind the efforts of Hunter and Rozier, the Blue Raiders controlled the post and went on a 13-2 run to close out the final minutes of the first half. Hunter scored five points through the run, including a dunk to close out the half. Rozier finished out the first half shooting 5-of-6 from the floor.
“We guarded better, we started rebounding and we worked well in transition,” Davis said. “We got paint touches and played inside-out. Jacquez Rozier was really powerful around the rim.”
The second half became a much looser affair for Middle Tennessee as the Blue Raiders continued to put on the pressure against the Racers, extending the lead to as many as 25 after a pair of free throws from Wortham with 10:40 remaining in the contest.
MT and Murray State exchanged baskets for a few minutes, eventually settling for an 18 point victory for the Blue Raiders. MT shoot 54.2-percent from the field, while MSU was 42.9-precent. Middle Tennessee’s victory Tuesday was the largest margin so far this season, eclipsing the 76-59 win against UALR Nov. 18.
Middle Tennessee returns to the Glass House Saturday, Nov. 30, hosting South Alabama at noon.