Men’s basketball: Second-half mistakes lead to fifth straight loss versus Middle Tennessee

Blue Raiders sweep season series against the Owls


Owls’ guard Nick Rutherford (10) calls out a play to his teammates after a turnover in the first half of FAU’s 58-51 win over Southern Miss on Jan 14. Max Jackson | Staff Photographer

Ryan Lynch, Multimedia Editor

Second-half turnovers helped seal the fate of Florida Atlantic men’s basketball Thursday as the team dropped its fifth straight game 76-59 to Middle Tennessee State University.

The Owls (7-23, 5-12 Conference USA) gave up eight turnovers after trailing the Blue Raiders 38-34 at the half, creating a deficit that proved to be too much for FAU to recover from.

“I thought all our turnovers were trying to get into the paint and make the pass,” head coach Michael Curry said. “They got their hands on a lot of ball, but we turned them over 14 times as well, so I was pleased to see that.”

MTSU (20-9,12-5 C-USA) scored 17 points on 14 of the Owls’ turnovers during the game.

After early shooting problems for FAU allowed the Blue Raiders to get as many as 14 points ahead, the Owls forced three straight turnovers to go on an 8-0 scoring run. This ended the first half within four points of MTSU, 38-34.

Drawing fouls proved to be a major factor in helping the Owls keep it close in the opening stages of the game, as they shot 9-of-10 from the free-throw line during the first half. Freshman guard Nick Rutherford, who led FAU’s scoring at halftime with nine points, went 5-of-5 from the line during that span.

“I thought we could have gotten more, even if they’re in the zone,” Curry said. “We got into the bonus, so we have to drive and be aggressive.”

FAU finished the game shooting 15-of-16 on free throws.

Notably missing for the majority of the matchup was junior guard Marquan Botley, who played a total of 13 minutes during the game.

“Just happens in the game of basketball,” Curry said of why Botley did not play as much as usual. “I never heard anybody ask when Nick [Rutherford] played 13 or 15 minutes. He’s the starting point guard, and he played only 15 before the Rice game, so it happens.”

Botley scored five points in the game, all in the second half. With his total, he is currently 21 points away from 1,000 points for his career.

Four Blue Raiders’ players registered double-digit scoring during the game, led by senior forward Perrin Buford’s 18 points. Redshirt junior Adonis Filer led the Owls with 16 points.

MTSU swept the season series versus FAU with the win — the previous meeting between the teams ended in an 85-73 win for the Blue Raiders on Feb. 4.

Though the Owls will not reach the same win total they had last season — nine — Curry doesn’t view the year as a lost cause.

“We had two conference wins [last year],” Curry said, referencing that the Owls’ win total in Conference USA play sits at five currently. “I could say the schedule, I didn’t play Stetson, I didn’t play those teams. We played a lot of big teams.”

Curry mentioned the fact he was starting two freshmen inside the paint — forward Jeantal Cylla and center Ronald Delph — instead of last year when he had senior forward Kelvin Penn and senior center Justin Raffington.

He continued, “If you’re going to compare the two teams, then this team has superseded what last year’s team did because that was a senior-oriented team and this is a freshmen-oriented team.”

The Owls will play their final regular season game on Saturday, March 5, at noon versus the University of Alabama at Birmingham. FAU dropped its first meeting of the season against the Blazers on Feb. 6 with a score of 104-67.

Ryan Lynch is the multimedia editor of the University Press. To contact him regarding this or other stories, he can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter.