Middle Tennessee (25-4) at Troy (11-18)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, February 28, 8:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Trojan Arena (4,000) -- Troy, Alabama. Television: None. Home Record: MT 16-0, Troy 8-5. Away Record: MT 9-3, Troy 2-12. Neutral Record: MT 0-1, Troy 1-1. Conference Record: MT 17-1, Troy 6-12. Series Record: Middle Tennessee leads, 11-7.
GAME NOTES: Two teams at opposite ends of the Sun Belt Conference West Division standings meet in the penultimate game of the regular season, as the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders come calling on the Troy Trojans.
Middle Tennessee had already clinched first place and the No. 1 seed in the SBC Tournament heading into last Saturday's home finale, but it still pulled off an dominating 87-46 victory versus ULM. The Blue Raiders have now won 14 straight games to improve to 25-4 overall and 17-1 in conference.
Meanwhile, Troy hasn't had much to cheer about this season, as it is only 11-18 overall and 6-12 in league play. Following a 69-61 win over FIU on Feb. 14, Trojans' head coach Don Maestri recorded his 499th career win, but they have failed to notched his milestone 500th win in any of the last three games, with their most recent defeat coming at Arkansas State last Saturday, 58-50.
Middle Tennessee made easy work of Troy on Feb. 9, 93-41, to extend its lead in the all-time series to 11-7.
The Blue Raiders sprinted out to a commanding 46-15 lead at the half against ULM the last time out, and put it in cruise control from there to extend their lengthy winning streak. They shot a lofty 52.6 percent from the field in the contest, including 12-of-28 from 3-point range, with Tweety Knight coming off the bench to lead the way with 15 points. Torin Walker also took advantage of extended playing time off the pine with 10 points on 4-of-4 shooting from the field, while Marcos Knight and Raymond Cintron chipped in 11 points apiece. Middle Tennessee has not only controlled the Sun Belt in the standings, but also in the statistics, as it ranks first in the league in scoring offense (71.6 ppg), scoring defense (57.3 ppg), field goal percentage (.463), 3-point field goal percentage (.384), field goal percentage defense (.395), assists (14.5 pg) and rebounding margin (+6.2). Knight (12.6 ppg, 5.7 rpg) is the team's only double-digit scorer, but it possesses a deep rotation of reserves, with nine others scoring at least 3.9 ppg.
The Trojans dug themselves a huge hole in the first half of their recent tilt against Arkansas State by scoring just 14 points in the opening 20 minutes, and they would never recover on their way to an eight-point defeat. The team finished the game shooting a woeful 19-of-65 from the field (.292), which included just three 3-pointers on 20 attempts. Antoine Myers was solid in defeat, scoring a career-high 21 points, while Hunter Williams netted 10 points. Unlike Middle Tennessee, Troy hasn't been especially impressive at either end of the court this season, scoring just 62.0 ppg (on a league-low .398 field goal percentage) while surrendering 66.8 ppg to its opponents. Emil Jones is the team's top scoring option with 11.2 ppg and he also chips in elsewhere with 5.5 rpg, 3.0 apg and 1.6 spg. Williams brings 10.6 ppg and 3.2 apg, doing much of his damage from 3-point range (57-of-151).
Troy will attempt to build some momentum with two straight home games to close out the season before the SBC Tournament starts next week, but it will likely have a difficult time doing so against the Blue Raiders, who have proven to be the most dangerous team in the conference. Middle Tennessee's balanced attack should have no problem poking holes in the Trojans defense in this one.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Middle Tennessee 74, Troy 60
02/28 10:36:29 ET