In the blink of an eye, Daeshon Francis found his opening.

Francis poked away his steal. He put a palm around the ball near midcourt. He put down his dribble, picked up his steam, then took off for a powerful slam.

Just like that, the Falcons were up by 19 points, and on their way to a ninth-straight victory.

The No. 8 UTPB men’s basketball team downed Midwestern State 88-71 Saturday in the Falcon Dome, exploding out to a big early lead and cruising down the stretch to get to 5-0 in the Lone Star Conference.

Francis scored 28 points, with 18 coming in the first half, including the breakaway dunk that put UTPB up 45-26 with four and a half minutes left to play in the first half, and well on its way to another victory.

In this one, the Falcons seemed to be clicking on just about all cylinders.

“Our team’s tough, man,” Francis said with a smile.

UTPB finished with an efficient 60.7-percent shooting from the floor, and outrebounded the visiting Mustangs by 10 on the way to 12-1 overall on the season — and to another push further from their last loss in mid-November.

Sammy Allen scored 15 points and hauled in eight rebounds, while Amari Bryant and forward Zeldric King each added 11.

“I was really happy with our guys,” UTPB head coach Andy Newman said. “We gritted it out. We played great. We played unselfishly.

“That was fun to be a part of.”

The Falcons finished with 50 points in the paint. UTPB knocked down 20 of 28 shots in the first half for 71.4-percent efficiency, as the Falcons flexed their muscle in finding high-percentage shot opportunities.

“Coach told us, ‘Don’t settle. Get to the paint. Get to the cup.’ So that’s what we were doing,” King said.

That effort ended with a business-like victory for Falcons team soaring high in the nation’s top 10 in the NABC’s Division II poll.

“Guys are turning down good shots to get great shots, and that’s when you’re good,” Newman said.

“We were that tonight.”

After a 6-6 start in the early going, UTPB pieced together a 12-3 run early in the first half to go up 18-9 on a King score with 13:06 left before the break, and the Falcons pulled that lead into double figures in the ensuing stages of the first half.

Later in the half, Francis’ steal and slam capped an 8-0 run that pushed the margin from 37-26 to 45-26 in little more than two minutes.

“I feel like we were just a little more aggressive,” King said, calling back to a loss he and other Falcons returners suffered at Midwestern State last season.

“They beat us last year at their place,” he said. “We had them, up 20, and they came back from a 20-point deficit and beat us.

“We had a little chip on our shoulder, and we came out revengeful. We took advantage of everything they were giving us.”

The Falcons’ lead was never cut to single digits in the second half, as UTPB’s winning streak rolled on.

“It’s the whole team. Everybody’s bought in,” Newman said. “We’re unselfish. We’re fun to watch. Nobody’s taking bad shots out there. It’s a fun team to play on.

“They’re bought-in to that team mentality, and when you get something like that, it’s special, it’s unique, and it’s fun to be a part of.”

No. 8 UTPB 88, Midwestern State 71

MIDWESTERN STATE (4-11 overall, 1-5 Lone Star Conference)

Devante Pullum 6-10 3-4 18, Brandon Neel 7-18 1-1 17, Wanaah Bail 3-8 5-5 12, Logan Hicks 3-10 3-5 11, Nick Powell 2-4 0-0 6, Trey Kennedy 1-6 0-1 3, Charles Callier 1-4 0-0 2, Nemanja Krtolica 1-1 0-0 2, Ola Ayodele 0-0 0-0 0, Josh Huntley 0-2 0-0 0, De’Quaan Haggerty 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-63 12-16 71.

UTPB (12-1, 5-0)

Daeshon Francis 12-17 4-5 28, Sammy Allen 4-5 7-7 15, Amari Bryant 4-6 0-1 11, Zeldric King 5-7 1-3 11, Josh Morris 4-9 1-2 9, James McPherson 3-9 1-2 8, Garrett Baggett 1-1 0-0 3, Andres Villa 1-2 0-0 2, Renard Thomas 0-0 1-2 1. Totals 34-56 15-22 88.

Halftime — UTPB 50, Midwestern State 37. 3-Point goals — Midwestern State 11-32 (Devante Pullum 3-6, Brandon Neel 2-8, Logan Hicks 2-8, Nick Powell 2-4, Trey Kennedy 1-3, Wanaah Bail 1-1, Charles Callier 0-2), UTPB 5-13 (Amari Bryant 3-5, James McPherson 1-5, Garrett Baggett 1-1, Daeshon Francis 0-1, Sammy Allen 0-1). Total fouls — Midwestern State 21, UTPB 20. Fouled out — Midwestern State: Nick Powell. UTPB: Zeldric King. Technical fouls — UTPB: James McPherson. Rebounds — Midwestern State 29 (Wanaah Bail 7), UTPB 39 (Sammy Allen 8, James McPherson 8, Daeshon Francis 8). Assists — Midwestern State 17 (Devante Pullum 6), UTPB 18 (Sammy Allen 5, Daeshon Francis 5).