– With Saturday's 141st
meeting all-time against Murray State, Middle Tennessee tied its program record for most head-to-head matchups against an opponent.
The Blue Raiders just wish it would've ended in a win.
The Racers (5-1) were all over MT (3-7) from the beginning, winning 64-42 to bring their all-time record over the home Raiders to 104-37. Middle Tennessee had won two in a row in the series.
"Tonight, I thought we did a lot of really good things, but we were really poor in the most important thing, and that's taking care of the basketball," MT head coach Nick McDevitt
said. "There were some good things out there … but we were just careless with the ball."
After the home team cut a nine-point deficit to 15-12 with 10 minutes left in the first half, Murray State recovered to put the game out of reach.
A 20-7 run over the rest of the half brought the score at the break to 35-19, and the Blue Raiders were only able to cut the Racer advantage to as little as 13 in the second 20 minutes.
The double-digit deficit came after Middle Tennessee kept NBA Draft hopeful Ja Morant in check. The freshman went into the game third in the NCAA in scoring and assist average with 27.2 and 8.4 per game but managed just nine and seven Saturday.
"I thought guys were alert when Morant had the basketball and really made him see traffic … but, really, the name of the game was we just turned it over too much," McDevitt said.
It was a rough night offensively for MT, as the blue and white shot 29 percent (14-48) from the floor and 15 percent (2-13) from distance. That was compounded with a season-high 24 turnovers, leading to 21 Murray State points, against just three assists.
"We had 24 turnovers, 10 in the first 12 minutes of the game, and you're just not going to beat good teams giving that many free opportunities to good players," McDevitt said. "We have to fix it. We have to cut down on turnovers, and until we do, we'll have a tough time beating quality opponents."
The Blue Raiders were led in scoring by freshman Jayce Johnson
with 12 and six rebounds in his third career start. Senior Karl Gamble
added nine points and nine boards.
Junior Antonio Green
, who celebrated his 22nd
birthday on Monday, had 11 points to reach the career 1,000-point plateau. He scored 823 in two years at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley before transferring to MT and redshirting last season.
They'll hope to get Middle Tennessee's offense rolling at Toledo after a week off on Dec. 15, the first of just three games in the next 25 days.
"It's not rocket science, we just have to be better about passing, catching, seeing the defense, playing harder, playing with more pace and space – it's simple stuff," Green said.
Josh Vardaman is the staff writer for goblueraiders.com. Follow him on Twitter @J_Vardaman and also follow @MTAthletics for more on the Blue Raiders.