A late push by Middle Tennessee was not enough Thursday night at the Florida Atlantic Owls downed the Raiders at home by a score of 71-61.
Offensive production was hard to come throughout the first half for both teams, but for the Blue Raiders it was almost non-existent.
The Raiders turned the ball over eight times in the half and had five shots blocked. The team was out rebounded by FAU 20-14, and despite causing 10 turnovers themselves, the team could only come away with six points from turnovers.
From the 16:20 mark, when Middle scored their fifth and sixth points, until half time the team was only able to come up with four field goals in 29 offensive possessions.
“I thought that in the first half we had a lot of opportunities,” Raider coach Kermit Davis said. “We really missed some point blank shots around the goal and our bigs collective tonight were four for 22.”
FAU could have put Middle away in the first half, but the defense of the Raiders was able to hold the score to a manageable seven-point deficit at the half.
After halftime FAU’s Raymond Taylor took the game over, finishing with 26 points on eight of 13 shooting and was able to hit all seven of his free throws.
“I thought he did a really good job on James Washington,” Davis said. “He’s a very well conditioned player, doesn’t get tired. I thought he really competed on the defensive side.”
With 2:57 remaining in the game FAU had built up a 16-point lead over the home team and it looked as though the game may be over.
Middle made one final push, doing much of the work from the free throw line. The momentum looked to have shifted to Middle Tennessee when FAU’s Jordan McCoy was called for a technical foul.
James Washington hit only one of the two shots, but after Middle inbounded the ball Washington was able to find a good look from beyond the arc and knock down a three, cutting the FAU lead to six.
The Raiders could not complete the comeback as FAU’s Taylor responded by drawing a foul on made shot the following Owl possession, halting Middle’s momentum and shutting the door on the Blue Raiders.
Jason Jones was the bright spot in the game for Middle Tennessee coming away with 20 points and eight rebounds. However, he left the game on several occasions due to fatigue just as it seemed he was building a rhythm.
“We let one get away from us tonight that kind of put us back in the mix, but it’s still a long season, you’ve just got to bounce back and play with some toughness Saturday night,” Davis said.
As the team moves forward coach Davis will be looking for players to separate themselves from the rest of the team.
“I can’t settle on eight players,” Davis said. “Nobody will emerge. We can’t get consistent play. It looks like we’re shuffling guys in and out, but we’re trying to play 10 guys. It worked the last three out of four games, but tonight we couldn’t get a combination that really worked.