Belmont (19-4) at Murray State (16-5)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, February 7, 8 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: CFSB Center (8,600) -- Murray, Kentucky. Television: ESPNU. Home Record: Belmont 10-0, MSU 7-2. Away Record: Belmont 7-3, MSU 7-2. Neutral Record: Belmont 2-1, MSU 2-1. Conference Record: Belmont 10-0, MSU 7-2. Series Record: Murray State leads, 4-1.
GAME NOTES: The Ohio Valley Conference's West and East Division leaders are set to collide as the Belmont Bruins visit the CFSB Center for a bout against the Murray State Racers.
This will be the inaugural meeting of the season and first since 2007 between these schools on the hardwood. Murray State owns a 4-1 all-time series lead after Belmont's 16-point victory in the last encounter.
The Bruins have been impressive in their first tour of the OVC. They have already emerged as the class of the conference, winning all 10 of their games since entering league action to rise to 19-4 overall. During the run through the conference, coach Rick Byrd's squad has averaged 83.0 ppg and allowed only 64.4 ppg. The dominance over conference rivals is nothing new. Belmont and Kansas are the only two programs in the nation to win 12 or more conference games each of the past 10 seasons.
Belmont coasted past Tennessee Tech, 74-52, for its 10th consecutive victory on Saturday as Trevor Noack led four starters in double figures with 19 points. The Bruins made 50 percent of their field goal and 3-point attempts in the contest. Belmont registered a 33-26 rebounding advantage and dished out 16 assists. J.J. Mann added 16 points, while Kerron Johnson and Ian Clark tallied 13 apiece. Clark is pacing the team with 18.9 ppg. Johnson (13.7), Noack (12.5), and Blake Jenkins (9.5) also make significant contributions on the offensive end.
Murray State was in Belmont's position in sole possession of first place of the OVC lead with a perfect record at this time last year, but it enters with a 16-5 overall record and 7-2 conference mark after its 75-68 overtime victory over Austin Peay on Saturday. Steve Prohm's Racers have won five of their last six games. Murray State is leading the conference in league games with only 61.7 points allowed per game. The Racers' scoring offense (67.7) is ranked just seventh in the OVC despite the solid play of senior point guard Isaiah Canaan.
Canaan is leading the OVC in scoring with 21 ppg and also deals out 4.0 assists per game. All-OVC Preseason selection Ed Daniel is second in the OVC with a .579 field-goal percentage and seventh in the nation with a rebound average of 10.9 per game. Daniel is also 13th in the OVC in scoring with 14.2 points per game. Stacy Wilson chimes in with 13.1 ppg, but Murray State does not have the same type of depth as the visitors.
Murray State has been just getting by against below par competition in recent weeks while Belmont is coasting through with ease. However, the Bruins' momentum will finally face a worthy test on Thursday. Canaan is a special type of player that can give his squad a chance in any game no matter the opponent.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Murray State 71, Belmont 68
02/07 10:33:43 ET