King, Walters lead Middle Tennessee past Ole Miss 77-58

Middle Tennessee players celebrate after a score in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Mississippi Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017, in Murfreesboro, Tenn. Middle Tennessee won 77-58. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) A second-half surge sent Middle Tennessee to another win over a Southeastern Conference opponent.

The Blue Raiders (7-1) erased a first-half deficit by opening the second half with an 8-0 spurt and never trailed Mississippi again Saturday night.

Nick King scored 25 points and Brandon Walters added a career-high 20 as Middle Tennessee won its fifth straight with a 77-58 victory over Ole Miss.

”I thought the key was really the first four minutes of the second half,” MTSU coach Kermit Davis said. ”I thought our team started sharing the ball more. We finally got into rhythm.”

Middle Tennessee improved to 7-0 against SEC and Big 10 opponents since 2015.

Walters hit 8 of 11 from the field and all four of his foul shots. The 6-foot-10 forward from Chattanooga blocked four shots and made four steals in 34 minutes – all career highs.

”Since last year, he’s lost 18 more pounds,” Davis said. ”He’s in great shape. He played behind Reggie (Upshaw) and JaCorey (Williams) and now you just see him kind of blossom.”

Giddy Potts added 14 points, including three 3-pointers.

Blue Raiders point guard Tyrik Dixon, limited to six minutes due to a bone bruise in his knee in Wednesday’s win at Vanderbilt, had a career-high nine assists and no turnovers.

”Coach always preaches to us about being a national team,” said King, an Alabama transfer. ”We’re getting the opportunity and we’re taking advantage of it every single game. As a mid-major, we’ve got to have that edge every single day and we can’t lose it, and I think that’s what’s keeping us ahead of the SEC teams.”

Middle Tennessee improved to 6-3 against Ole Miss.

Marcanvis Hymon led Ole Miss (4-4) with 12 points. Ole Miss’ Bruce Stevens and Terence Davis added 10 points each.

The Rebels lost their third consecutive game, including two overtime setbacks.

Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy didn’t attend the postgame press conference.

BIG PICTURE

Ole Miss: The Rebels got outscored 44-24 in the second half as a 34-33 first-half lead disappeared quickly.

Middle Tennessee: The Blue Raiders are 2-0 against the SEC this season. King heated up after a slow start in the first half.

BIG D

Middle Tennessee’s 1-3-1 zone defense held Ole Miss to a season-low 58 points. Ole Miss’ offense entered the game ranked fourth in the SEC (83.7 ppg). ”The biggest thing you’ve got to do to Ole Miss is you’ve got to get back,” Davis said. ”If those guards get it in transition off your live-ball turnovers, they’re great in transition.” MTSU made just six turnovers.

ROAD STRETCH

Middle Tennessee won’t be back in the Murphy Center for 33 days, the nation’s fourth-longest road stretch.

The Blue Raiders’ next home game is Jan. 11 against Louisiana Tech.

UP NEXT

Ole Miss hosts Sam Houston on Wednesday.

Middle Tennessee visits Auburn on Saturday for its third straight-game against an SEC opponent.