The homecoming couldn’t have gone better for Middle Tennessee State coach Kermit Davis.
Back in his native of Mississippi, Davis matched Jimmy Earle as the winningest coach in program history as the Blue Raiders knocked off Ole Miss 68-56 on Wednesday night on a neutral court in South Haven, Miss.
Davis picked up his 164th win in 10 seasons at MTSU, and the Blue Raiders defeated an SEC opponent for the first time since 1995. Previously this season they routed the Pac-12’s UCLA.
“It was all about the Blue Raiders [Wednesday],” said Davis, who had an overwhelming group of family and friends in attendance. “I’m so proud of our players against a really good SEC team. We absorbed tons of foul trouble and injuries and different things to pull away and we ran a great offense down the stretch.”
MTSU (11-2) pulled away midway through the second half. After the Rebels (9-3) took a 41-40 lead with 11:18 left in a game of runs, the Blue Raiders delivered the knockout blow. With the game tied a couple minutes later, JT Sulton and Raymond Cintron sparked a 13-1 spurt. Sulton scored six straight points, with two dunks, and Cintron nailed a 3-pointer and connected on four free throws for a 56-44 advantage with 5:34 remaining.
Cintron paced the Blue Raiders and matched his career-best with 18 points. LaRon Dendy scored 12 of his 13 points after halftime. Marcos Knight had 11 and Sulton, also a Mississippi native, scored 10. The Blue Raiders’ depth paid dividends again, with 10 players scoring.
MTSU now breaks for the holiday before opening up Sun Belt Conference play back home in Murfreesboro on Dec. 29 against Florida International.
“From a national perspective, the UCLA gave us credibility and created a nice buzz around our team,” Davis said. “We have a long way to go and a lot of basketball ahead of us. But we beat a good team that’s going to win a lot of games in the SEC.”