In what was the second straight victory at Monte Hale Arena, Florida Atlantic (13-6, 5-0) established its best conference start in program history by knocking off Middle Tennessee tonight 71-61 in Murfreesboro.
The mark eclipses the prior record of 4-0 set back in the 1996-97 season while members of the former Trans America Athletic Conference (TACC), now the Atlantic Sun.
“It means a lot; it means that all the hard work and dedication that the players and the coaches have put in is paying off. The guys are learning how to play, especially learning how to play defense”, said Coach Mike Jarvis on the win.
After a quick start, sloppy play by both teams led to a 4:30 shooting drought until Blue Raider Jason Jones hit a pair of free throws to tie it up at 8-8.
But back-to-back baskets by Ray Taylor, who had a career high 26 points, completed a 17-6 run to give the Owls an 11 point advantage before MTSU closed the gap to 26-19 at the half.
Middle Tennessee (7-10, 2-2) got to within just five points midway through the second, but FAU answered by building their largest lead at 63-47 following a Taylor lay-up.
This came primarily without the services of forwards Brett Royster and Kore White, who fouled out and saw limited time during the period.
“We tried awfully hard to make this a real close game, but it wasn’t because the kids didn’t try. In some cases they may have tried just a little too hard”, Jarvis said.
With the Blue Raiders using fouls to try and close the gap, Taylor and fellow guard Alex Tucker came up big for FAU, producing a perfect 12-of-12 performance from the line on the night.
The Owls, who held MTSU to 34% from the field, have now won their last five straight, and are 11-0 on the season when leading at the half.
“We’re not just expecting to win, we’re finding ways to win”, said Royster during a halftime interview.
Florida Atlantic concludes a two-game road trip on Saturday against Western Kentucky at 8:00 p.m. The game can be seen on Fox College Sports.