Middle Tennessee earns 3rd straight win over Vanderbilt
By CHIP CIRILLO
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Nick King enjoyed another big game and it led to another big win for Middle Tennessee.
King, one of the nation's top scorers, poured in 23 points to lead Middle Tennessee to its third straight win over Vanderbilt with a 66-63 victory on Wednesday night.
"He's just a guy that can score at all three levels," Middle Tennessee coach Kermit Davis said. "He can drive the ball, he's shooting 50 percent from 3 and he's got a really good post-up game."
King, a transfer from Alabama, was a top 50 prospect coming out of Memphis East High School. The 6-foot-7 senior forward also played at Memphis for two seasons.
"It's great playing with Nick King because he's pick-and-pop big," Walters said. "So he's versatile. His game can go inside-out, so if he goes inside I can pop out and get him the inside paint where he can go one on one because he's a very good offensive scorer."
King went 9 of 11 from the foul line and grabbed six rebounds.
"He's talented, especially offensively and he's aggressive and he attacks," Vanderbilt forward Jeff Roberson said. "So it's about being able to play without fouling and it's hard sometimes. So once he got rolling he got lots of points at the free-throw line and that didn't help either."
MTSU improved to 6-0 against the SEC and Big 10 since 2015.
"That's a great stat for the brand at Middle Tennessee and we're trying to build it," Davis said.
Matthew Fisher-Davis came off the bench to score 17 points, including five 3-pointers, for Vanderbilt (3-6).
Roberson added 13 points for the Commodores, who have lost five of their last six games.
"That's the third one we've gotten the short stick here at the end," Vanderbilt coach Bryce Drew said. "Unfortunately, we didn't shoot the ball well. We missed some key shots and you've got to credit Middle."
Vanderbilt's Riley LaChance missed a 3-point attempt with two seconds left that could have tied the game. LaChance was 0-for-6 from distance.
Vanderbilt also lost tight home games to 25th-ranked Southern Cal 93-89 in overtime on Nov. 19 and to Kansas State 84-79 on Sunday.
The Commodores shot only 29 percent from the floor in the second half as a 32-28 halftime lead dissolved.
Middle Tennessee: The Blue Raiders, who had a stunning win over Michigan State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament two seasons ago, continue to show they belong with Power Five Conference opponents.
Vanderbilt: The Commodores lost another close game as they couldn't make the big plays in the closing minutes.
MTSU point guard Tyrik Dixon was limited to six minutes due to a bone bruise and Antwain Johnson is out of the lineup with a sprained ankle. "He worked out today," Davis said of Johnson. "I think he'll probably be about 80, 85 percent."
Vanderbilt has the worst record in the Southeastern Conference, but three of its losses were to ranked teams. The Commodores entered the game last in the SEC in scoring (69.4) and field goal percentage (40.6).
"I think Vanderbilt is going to win a lot of games here," Davis said. "They've played a brutal schedule."
Middle Tennessee hosts Ole Miss (4-3) on Saturday before visiting another SEC team, Auburn, on Dec. 16. Ole Miss has lost two straight overtime games.
Vanderbilt visits 16th-ranked Arizona State (7-0) on Dec. 17 after an 11-day break for final exams. ASU's explosive offense ranks fifth nationally (92.7 ppg).
Updated December 7, 2017