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Jones, Hunter's career days push MT past FIU 70-68

Raiders win five in a row

February 8, 2014 · @MTAthletics

MIAMI - The Middle Tennessee men's basketball team (17-7, 7-2 C-USA) extended its winning streak to five games with a 70-68 victory at FIU (12-12, 4-5 C-USA) Saturday with career performances from seniors Neiko Hunter and Shawn Jones in Conference USA action.

Jones tallied his 1,000th career point off of a dunk with 10:24 to go in the first half. He is just the third player in program history to amass 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 100 blocks in his career, joining the likes of Warren Kidd (1991-93) and Lee Nosse (1999-02). Jones finished the night with 23 points and nine rebounds, marking his fourth-straight 20-point performance. He went 7-for-15 from the floor and 9-for-10 from the line, while blocking three FIU shots.

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Hunter paced the Blue Raiders on the night, putting up a career-high 25 points and pulled down a career-best nine boards. He went 11-for-16 from the floor and 3-for-6 from the line. His previous career-high was 20 points, which he recorded against Southern Nov. 10 and then against Maine Dec. 29. He snagged a career-best eight rebounds against UTEP Jan. 16.

"I've got to give a lot of credit to FIU; they played well," said MT head coach Kermit Davis. "Anthony (Evans) has done a really good job. They just drive the ball at you, but our front line was really the story. They were terrific. Neiko (Hunter) and Shawn (Jones) were absolutely great. I thought Marcus Tarrance was really good; he gave us some good minutes and then Jaqawn Raymond had a really good, strong finish for the game-winner late."

The Blue Raiders led by six with 3:03 left to play in the contest, but the Panthers used a 6-0 run to tie things up for the sixth and final time at 68-68 with 1:31 on the clock. An MT turnover with 1:11 remaining gave FIU an opportunity to pull ahead for the first time since the 11:30 mark of the first half.

FIU's Tymell Murphy took the ball to the hole, but Jones swatted his layup attempt away and collected the rebound with 50 seconds left. Jones got tied up underneath the FIU basket and called MT's last timeout. After the break, the Blue Raiders ran their offense and Raymond found an opening down the middle. He drove down the paint and netted a runner, giving MT a two-point lead with 30 seconds remaining.

FIU called a timeout to set something up with 24 seconds on the clock. Middle Tennessee then put its defense to work, forcing FIU to settle for a rushed three-pointer with six seconds to go. The trey didn't fall as Hunter collected the defensive board. The Panthers fouled quickly to stop the clock with four seconds left.

MT inbounded the ball to Hunter and FIU fouled again, stopping the clock at three seconds. Hunter went to the line, but missed the front-end of the one-and-one as FIU collected the rebound and called time with 0.5 remaining. The Panthers didn't have enough time to make a play and the Blue Raiders claimed the 70-68 victory.

On the night, Kerry Hammonds II recorded seven points for MT to go along with five rebounds and four assists. Senior Tweety Knight handed out a team-high five assists, while Marcus Tarrance posted seven points.

Middle Tennessee shot 49.1-percent from the floor and 16.7-percent from long distance, while FIU was 51.0-percent from the floor and 41.7-percent from three-point range. MT bested FIU at the line, going 12-for-16 for 75.0-percent, compared to the Panthers' 11-for-18 for 61.1-percent. The Blue Raiders also won the battle of the boards 34-25, while outscoring FIU 42-34 in the paint.

The Blue Raiders return to action Thursday, Feb. 13, hosting Tulane for 7 p.m. tip-off on MyTV 30.

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