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MTSU men take down Rice 80-77 on road

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MTSU's men escaped in a high-scoring affair at Rice Thursday night, downing the Owls 80-77 at Tudor Fieldhouse in Houston, Texas.

The Blue Raiders took a six-point lead with under a minute remaining, but things got tense as Rice was able to cut it to one on their home floor before time ran out.

MTSU shot 50 percent from the field and 52.9 percent from three. The Raiders had 21 assists on the night to just nine turnovers and forced 14 Rice turnovers.

"This was a really good road win for us," MTSU coach Kermit Davis said. "Rice is going to win a lot of ball games here and already have 11 wins this season. (Head coach) Mike (Rhoades) has done a great job with this Rice basketball program."

JaCorey Williams got MTSU going early, notching six of the first nine Blue Raider points and bringing his total to 10 before the 10-minute mark.

After a Xavier Habersham jumper pushed the lead to 21-16, Rice opened up a 17-2 run to take a 10-point lead and would eventually open it up to 11 after the final media timeout of the half.

Down 11 with 3:01 on the clock, Giddy Potts got back on the court after some early foul trouble and sank a pair of triples around a 3-pointer by Antwain Johnson to pull MTSU back within four.

Despite shooting 50 percent in the opening half, the Raiders would trail 38-34 at the half as Rice shot 51.9 percent and scored six second-chance points on five offensive boards.

MTSU stayed hot out of the break, pouring in 25 points to Rice's eight in just over eight minutes to take a 59-46 lead.

"The first 12 or 13 minutes of the second half were about as good as we can play," Davis said. "We ended up with 21 assists on 30 baskets tonight and then were able to get into our 13 (defense) and put some pressure on them."

Rice fired back with a 17-5 run fueled by eight points from Marcus Evans and seven from Egor Koulechov to bring the Owls within a point at 64-63 before Tyrik Dixon stopped the bleeding with his second triple of the night.

Two and a half minutes later the Owls were able to tie the game up at 69, but the Raiders went on a 6-0 run and looked to have the game in hand with just 43 seconds on the clock, but Rice hadn't given up yet.

Rice sandwiched a jumper and a triple around a pair of free throws by Reggie Upshaw, and after Dixon missed the front end of a one-and-one and Williams missed one of two, Evans hit an off-balance three to make it a one-point game with a second left.

The Owls then sent Potts to the line and he sank both, and an inbound heave was batted into the air by the junior to run out the clock and deliver the Blue Raider win.

Upshaw finished the night with 20 points -- 18 of which came in the second half -- and seven rebounds, Williams with 19 and four and Potts with 17 and three.

Dixon added six points, tied his career high of six rebounds and notched four assists to zero turnovers while Brandon Walters added six points off the bench.

The Blue Raiders return to action Saturday in Denton, Texas, in a 2 p.m. contest at North Texas.

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