MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (AP)Camryn Weston scored 16 points, Elias King added 15 and Middle Tennessee beat No. 25 Florida Atlantic 74-70 on Thursday night for the Blue Raiders’ first win over a ranked opponent since 2016.
Middle Tennessee (16-11, 9-7 Conference USA) avenged an 85-67 loss to then-No. 21 FAU on Jan. 26 in its first home game against a ranked team since the 2008-09 season. Middle Tennessee’s previous victory over a Top 25 squad came on March 18, 2016, against No. 2 Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament.
”Anytime you beat a Top 25 team, you’ve played well,” Middle Tennessee coach Nick McDevitt said. ”Our prep was for sure the best it’s been all year.”
The Blue Raiders led 56-41 with 10 minutes left as FAU (24-3, 14-2) made just four of its first 12 shots after halftime. FAU rallied to get within 61-54 on a 3-pointer by Michael Forrest with 4:22 left as Middle Tennessee went without a field goal for four-plus minutes.
FAU twice got within three in the final minute, on 3-pointers by Alijah Martin and Jalen Gaffney, but Middle Tennessee made free throws at the other end each time to regain a two-possession lead.
Eli Lawrence finished with 13 points and Justin Bufford added 12 for Middle Tennessee.
Middle Tennessee went scoreless in the final three minutes of the first half, but scored eight straight points in the opening 2:13 of the second half. The Blue Raiders added another 8-0 run for the first double-digit lead of the game at 47-36.
Martin, the Conference USA player of the week, scored 15 points for Florida Atlantic, which was coming off back-to-back 90-point games. Vladislav Goldin had 14 points and eight rebounds, and Forrest added 13 points. Johnell Davis, the leading scorer for FAU at 13.5 points per game, was held to nine on 4-of-10 shooting.
FAU trailed by eight with 4:53 left in the first half but closed on an 11-2 run for a 32-31 lead. The final 11 points by the Owls were scored by reserves.
”To get only one point at the free throw line while turning it over 15 times, it’s not a recipe for success on the road against a quality team like Middle Tennessee,” FAU coach Dusty May said.
Florida Atlantic has the weekend off before hosting UTSA next Thursday.
”With this bye weekend, we need to refocus and figure out how to get our edge back,” May said.
Middle Tennessee continues its three-game homestand Saturday against Florida International.
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