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68


Middle Tennessee (16-7) at FIU (12-11)



The Sports Network

DATE & TIME: Saturday, February 8, 2 p.m. (ET)

FACTS & STATS: Site: U.S. Century Bank Arena (5,000) -- Miami, Florida. Television: None. Home Record: MT 11-2, FIU 8-3. Away Record: MT 4-4, FIU 3-6. Neutral Record: MT 1-1, FIU 1-2. Conference Record: MT 6-2, FIU 4-4. Series Record: Middle Tennessee leads, 23-7.

GAME NOTES: The Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders will conclude their trip to the Sunshine State on Saturday as they meet the FIU Panthers for Conference USA action at U.S. Century Bank Arena.

The Blue Raiders held off Florida Atlantic for a 67-63 win in their last outing. Senior forward Shawn Jones finished with a career-high 25 points to lead the team past the Owls. The win was the fourth in a row for Middle Tennessee, which is just one game out of first place in the C-USA standings with a 6-2 record. Coach Kermit Davis's team has outscored the opposition by an average of eight ppg this season.

Coach Anthony Evans and his Panthers returned home after an unsuccessful two- game road trip to narrowly edge UAB, 78-73, on Thursday evening. They faced a five-point deficit at the intermission after the Blazers limited them to 34.8 percent efficiency from the field in the opening 20 minutes, but shot just under 60 percent from the floor in the second half to rally back. FIU rose one game above the .500 mark on the season and to an even 4-4 C-USA record with the victory. The Panthers are netting 68.2 ppg on 44.7 percent shooting from the field on the campaign. They are ranked 46th among Division I schools with 38.3 rpg.

This will be the 31st meeting in history between the Blue Raiders and FIU. While Middle Tennessee owns a 23-7 all-time series lead, the Panthers knocked off the Blue Raiders in last season's Sun Belt Conference Tournament semifinals.

Jones is leading Middle Tennessee on the campaign with 14.9 ppg and 8.6 rpg. The 6-foot-8 senior forward's outburst versus FAU left him just five points shy of the 1,000-point plateau for his career and marked his third consecutive 20- point outing. Jones had some help in Boca Raton as Neiko Hunter added 19 points while Kerry Hammonds finished with 11 points and five assists. Middle Tennessee has plenty of depth with nine players clocking at least 15 mpg. Hammonds logs a team-high 31.7 minutes per game and nets 12.7 ppg. Hunter is a key contributor in the scoring column at 17.4 ppg while Tweety Knight is averaging 4.6 assists and 2.2 steals per outing.

FIU's tandem of Rakeem Buckles and Tymell Murphy continued to shine in the comeback win over the Blazers. Buckles recorded a double-double with 21 points and 11 boards, while Murphy added 16 points. Dennis Mavin and Jerome Fink both scored in double figures with 14 and 13 points, respectively. Murphy has been sensational throughout the 2013-14 campaign en route to a team-high 16.7 ppg, which he accompanies with eight rpg and 1.5 blocks per tilt. Buckles is near a double-double average with 13.7 ppg and nine rpg, while Mavin (11.3 ppg) is the top scoring option out of the backcourt.

The Blue Raiders are excellent at denying their opposition a great deal of second chance opportunities, which FIU relies heavily on for its production. The Panthers scored 14 points off of offensive boards in their last outing, but also converted 7-of-14 attempts from 3-point range. Although Middle Tennessee is a better team on paper, FIU will not be an easy obstacle to overcome in Miami.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: FIU 68, Middle Tennessee 64

02/08 10:21:00 ET