Middle Tennessee (19-4) at Florida Atlantic (11-12)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, February 2, 7 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: FAU Arena (5,000) -- Boca Raton, Florida. Television: None. Home Record: MT 12-0, FAU 7-3. Away Record: MT 7-3, FAU 3-9. Neutral Record: MT 0-1, FAU 1-0. Conference Record: MT 11-1, FAU 6-6. Series Record: Middle Tennessee lads, 10-4.
GAME NOTES: After adding to their season-long winning streak in thrilling fashion earlier this week, the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders will try to keep the momentum as they tangle with the Florida Atlantic Owls at FAU Arena on Saturday night.
Down by as many as 20 points at FIU on Thursday, Middle Tennessee made a furious second-half comeback and capped it off with a Shawn Jones' game- winning jumper at the buzzer to capture the 66-64 win. The Blue Raiders have won eight straight games, and at 19-4 overall and 11-1 in league play, they have firmly established themselves as the team to beat in the Sun Belt.
FAU opened up its conference slate in promising fashion, winning six of its first nine Sun Belt tilts, but it fell back to the middle of the pack with three straight losses from Jan. 19 to Jan. 26. The Owls were able to get back on track with a 76-71 home win versus ULM on Thursday night to even its league ledger at 6-6.
Middle Tennessee holds a 10-4 advantage in the all-time series with FAU, which includes a 62-52 win in Murfreesboro on Jan. 10.
Middle Tennessee was ice-cold from the field in the first half (7-of-26), as it dug itself a huge hole early on. But it was able to climb out after the break by shooting 17-of-27 over the final 20 minutes, culminating in the thrilling buzzer-beater. Raymond Cintron was a spark plug off the bench with 14 points on 4-of-7 from 3-point range, while Marcos Knight added 10 points and nine rebounds. The Blue Raiders' effort this season has been strong across the board, the team ranking second in the conference in scoring offense (69.6 ppg) and first in scoring defense (58.6 ppg). It's been a true team effort, as Knight puts up 12.6 ppg, 5.5 rpg and 2.5 apg, but no other player averages in double figures. Instead, eight players net at least 5.3 ppg, with Jones (8.9 ppg, 5.8 rpg), Cintron (8.4 ppg) and Bruce Massey (5.3 ppg, 3.2 apg, 1.4 spg) being just a handful of the many consistent performers in a deep rotation.
The Owls found themselves trailing last-place ULM by seven points with just over eight minutes to play on Thursday night, but they closed the game on a 22-10 run to claim the crucial win, and stop its losing streak in the process. FAU shot 45.2 percent from the field and had five players score in double figures, paced by 19 from star guard Greg Gantt. Stefan Moody netted 16 points, Pablo Bertone had 13, and Richard Morrow logged a double-double with 11 points and 13 boards. Jackson Trapp chipped in 10 points off the bench in what was a total team effort. Despite the presence of Gantt (21.5 ppg), the Sun Belt's leading scorer, FAU ranks ninth in the league in scoring at 64.0 ppg. Although Gantt does most of his damage thanks to outstanding outputs from 3-point range (62-of-155, .400) and the foul line (92-of-116, .793), the squad also gets a consistent effort from Moody (14.3 ppg).
Even when it appeared Middle Tennessee was vulnerable on the road a couple of nights back, it somehow pulled out another win. The Blue Raiders' luck could run out here on short rest on the road, but they've been too strong all season long to pick against them against an inconsistent FAU squad.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Middle Tennessee 66, Florida Atlantic 61
02/02 10:44:43 ET