MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (AP) — Middle Tennessee looked very comfortable in its first game as a ranked team.
Nick King scored 22 points, Giddy Potts had 17 and the 24th-ranked Blue Raiders cruised to a 79-54 victory over UAB on Saturday night.
Middle Tennessee (23-5, 15-1 Conference USA) entered the AP poll for the first time on Monday, but hadn’t played since an 87-70 victory at Louisiana Tech last Saturday. It showed no signs of any rust, jumping to a 40-19 halftime lead against the Blazers.
“We’re proud of our ranking, proud of it for our fans and most proud for our players,” coach Kermit Davis said. “We talked about it on Monday that with more success comes more motivation and it drives you. I think it drives our team. We looked like a Top 25 team tonight and that was good to see.”
Potts made five of Middle Tennessee’s 11 3-pointers. Brandon Walters scored 16 points, and Antwain Johnson had 11.
The ranking is “just another milestone,” Walters said. “We’re still a target of everybody, so we’ve just got to work hard and play hard every day.”
Middle Tennessee can clinch the C-USA regular-season championship with a win at home against Western Kentucky on Thursday night.
Zack Bryant led UAB (17-12, 8-8) with 13 points. Jalen Perry added 10 points.
The Blue Raiders grabbed control with a 12-2 run in the first half. They led by as many as 35 points in the second half.
“For the first 35 minutes, I thought our team had a great edge to it,” Davis said. “I thought we made it tough on UAB with our half-court defense. We had active hands. We took some turnovers and got baskets in transition and shot the ball well from the perimeter.”
UAB shot 36 percent (18 for 50) from the field. The Blazers were 1 for 17 from 3-point range.
UAB: Middle Tennessee was whistled for 12 fouls in the first half, but UAB was just 6 for 11 at the line at the break.
Middle Tennessee: Potts was 5 for 9 from 3-point range. Johnson was 3 for 4 from beyond the arc, and King made two 3s.
UAB: Hosts Marshall on Thursday.
Middle Tennessee: Hosts Western Kentucky on Thursday.