MURRAY, Ky. – Middle Tennessee’s depth was tested early and often Monday night as the foul count racked up in Murray, but the Blue Raiders held on down the stretch for a 72-67 road win against the Racers.
A total of 47 fouls were called in a physical contest between the two long-time foes before MT won out with strong bench performances late from David Simmons and Karl Gamble. Simmons iced the game for the Raiders, knocking down a pair of free throws to put MT up five with 2.2 seconds to go.
Senior Nick King kept the Blue Raiders in reach in the first half as the MT trailed 44-42 at halftime, pouring in 20 of his 31 points before the break on 8-of-10 shooting from the floor.
The Memphis native went 12 of 16 on the night with five rebounds and knocked down 6-of-6 attempts from the free throw line.
Potts added seven in the first half while Johnson had six, but both Johnson and Karl Gamble were sidelined in the first half with three fouls each while three other Raiders had two fouls in the first 20 minutes.
King picked up where he left off in the second half, dropping in the first two Blue Raider baskets to even the score at 46 before James Hawthorne’s first two points of the night gave MT the lead.
Back-to-back baskets from David and Brandon Walters put the Raiders up four, 55-51, but the Racers came right back to regain the lead with eight minutes to go.
After trading points for the next couple minutes Simmons drove to the basket and gave the Blue Raiders a 61-59 lead, one that they would not relinquish for the final five minutes and 40 seconds of action as the defense clamped down on the talented Murray State guards.
“The bigs had to find a way to help our guards defend their guards to stop them from going downhill so much,” King said. “In the second half we had to crank up the pressure on defense and were able to get a good road win.”
Potts finished with just seven points but added game highs with eight boards and four steals. Simmons finished with eight points, five boards and three assists while Gamble totaled seven points and six boards.
Brandon Walters had nine points and four rebounds on the night and Antwain Johnson added six more points for the Blue Raiders.
“We got just what we thought from Murray State tonight,” Davis said. “We’ve played them the last few years and this is one of their better teams.
“Nick had to settle in tonight but once he did he was terrific and then we had to make some second half adjustments that really made the difference for us in this game.”
Middle Tennessee returns to action Thursday as it hosts Belmont in the second of three straight match-ups against OVC foes. The Blue Raiders and Bruins will tip at 6:30 p.m.