It was a game of long scoring runs, but the MTSU men’s basketball held on and made it 21 wins in a row inside the Murphy Center by defeating Florida Atlantic 62-52 on Thursday night.
The Blue Raiders used a 26-0 run to end the first half and start the second half, and got a huge layup by guard Marcos Knight late in the game to seal its sixth win in the last seven games.
“We did not finish the game like we were supposed to,” Knight said after the game. “We played really good defense at the end of the first half and at the beginning of the second half. As the game went on, we kind of laid back on defense and did not execute on offense. We got to learn how to put 40 minutes together as a team.
The Blue Raiders fell behind early in the first half, thanks in part of the Owl scoring duo of senior guard Greg Gantt and sophomore guard Stefan Moody who help lead FAU to a 16-10 advantage with 10:55 left in the first half.
The Owl defense also held the Blue Raider scoreless for almost four minutes during its 9-0 run. However, MTSU answered with a huge scoring run of its own as it went on a 16-0 run to end the first half. The Blue Raider defense did its own part by holding the Owls scoreless for the last 7:26 of the opening half. Also, Gantt and Moody were the only FAU scorers in the first half with 12 points apiece.
In the second half, MTSU expanded its lead to 21 points, 45-24 with 16:38 left in the game after a three-pointer by senior guard Raymond Cintron. He missed the last game against South Alabama with a deep bone bruise on his heel on Jan. 5. The long distance basket was the final points in the 26-0 Blue Raider run.
FAU finally ended the scoring drought with a three-pointer by junior guard Pablo Bertone with 16:18 left. It was the first basket in the game by a FAU player besides Gantt and Moody. The Owls continued the momentum with a 13-4 run of its own to cut the Blue Raider lead down to 12, 49-37 with 10:29 left after a layup by Gantt.
The Blue Raiders stopped the pain when senior guard Bruce Massey picked off a FAU pass and found senior guard Marcos Knight for the basket. However, the Owls kept hanging around and cut the lead down to 11, 58-47 after a four-point play by Gantt with 4:24 left in the game.
FAU freshman guard Jackson Trapp drilled a three-pointer to cut the Blue Raider lead to eight, 59-51 with 2:38 left. Marcos Knight answered with a layup, and Cintron added a free throw to put the game away for the Blue Raiders.
Coming into the game, Gantt had already set the mark as the Owls all-time leading scorer. He along with Moody was able to get score their points with 23 and 18 respectively, but the Blue Raiders held the rest of the Owl players to 12 points in the win.
“Gantt is a really good player,” Davis said. “He is scoring in so many different ways now. We put a lot of people on him, but he made threes and scored spinning to the basket. He played really good tonight.”
With the win, the Blue Raiders are now 9-0 at home this season, including a win at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville over Vanderbilt 56-52 on Dec. 21. Also, the team has won six out of their seven games with its only loss coming in overtime, 66-60 at Arkansas State on Jan. 3.
MTSU now hits the road to face Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday afternoon. The Warhawks have the worst record (3-9) in SBC, but Davis believes ULM has improved a lot since last year’s meeting which the Blue Raiders won 94-61 on Feb. 12, 2012.
Saturday’s game will be a part of doubleheader with the MTSU women’s team, and tip off for the men’s game at ULM is scheduled for 4 p.m.