Middle Tennessee (26-4) at Western Kentucky (16-14)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, March 2, 6:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: E.A. Diddle Arena (7,326) -- Bowling Green, Kentucky. Television: Sun Belt Network, CSS. Home Record: MT 16-0, WKU 11-3. Away Record: MT 10-3, WKU 4-9. Neutral Record: MT 0-1, WKU 1-2. Conference Record: MT 18-1, WKU 10-9. Series Record: Western Kentucky leads, 92-36.
GAMES NOTES: The Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders will try to keep their win streak alive as the regular season comes to a close on Saturday in a Sun Belt Conference bout against Western Kentucky at E.A. Diddle Arena.
There isn't much for the Blue Raiders to play for in this contest as at 18-1 in league action, they have captured the Sun Belt regular season crown and the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament more than a week ago. Middle Tennessee has a 14-game winning streak riding into this regular-season finale after a 66-56 victory against Troy on Thursday.
For Western Kentucky there is a lot on the line in this contest. The Hilltoppers are an even 10-9 in league action. The Hilltoppers are also just a game back from FIU for the fourth spot in the league. Momentum is also on the Hilltoppers' side with wins in three straight contests.
It wasn't very competitive when these teams squared off at the end of January at the Murphy Center. The Blue Raiders rolled to a 72-53 victory in the contest for its sixth in the last seven meetings. That recent trend goes against the all-time series though, which Western Kentucky leads, 92-36.
Middle Tennessee didn't have much trouble with Troy on Thursday. The Blue Raiders led by as many as 19 points in the contest and shot at an impressive 52 percent from the field. Marcos Knight led the way with 20 points and eight rebounds.
The Blue Raiders have absolutely dominated on both ends of the floor this season. They lead the Sun Belt in just about every offensive category, including points (71.4 pg), assists (14.5 pg) and field-goal percentage (.465). On defense the Blue Raiders lock up foes by holding them to 57.3 points per game on less than 40 percent shooting. Balance is the key for the Blue Raiders with Knight (12.8 ppg) the leading scorer on a roster that features seven different players scoring at least six points per game. Knight's 20-point showing against Troy was the 10th straight game in double figures for the 6-foot-2 guard.
Points off turnovers were crucial in Western Kentucky's 79-73 win over South Alabama on Thursday. The Hilltoppers had a 30-14 edge in points off takeaways and also outscored the Jaguars in the paint, 34-24. T.J. Price paced Western Kentucky with 22 points.
Price (15.0 ppg) has been at the top of the score sheet more often than not for Western Kentucky, despite shooting less than 40 percent from the floor. The sophomore guard has been playing very well down the stretch with four 20- point efforts in the last six games. Jamal Crook (12.8 ppg, 4.4 apg) is efficient in the backcourt as he not only leads the team in assists but shoots better than 50 percent from the field. George Fant (12.7 ppg, 6.7 rpg) is the third and final member of the team in double figures as well as the leader on the glass.
Other than a stumble on the road against Arkansas State, the Sun Belt hasn't really posed much problem for Middle Tennessee. Expect The Blue Raiders to keep rolling in the season finale.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Middle Tennessee 73, Western Kentucky 63
03/02 10:34:28 ET