Middle Tennessee (8-3) vs. Vanderbilt (5-4)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, December 21, 9 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Bridgestone Arena (20,000) -- Nashville, Tennessee.
Television: ESPNU. Home Record: MTSU 5-0, Vanderbilt 3-1. Away Record: MTSU
3-2, Vanderbilt 1-1. Neutral Record: MTSU 0-1, Vanderbilt 1-2. Conference
Record: MTSU 1-0, Vanderbilt 0-0. Series Record: Vanderbilt leads, 29-4.
GAME NOTES: The Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders will take the 35-mile trip north
to Nashville on Friday night to square off against the Vanderbilt Commodores
at Bridgestone Arena.
Middle Tennessee has started the season an impressive 8-3, and in addition to
going undefeated at home, it has also won three road games over Savannah State
(58-55), UCF (75-61) and Sun Belt Conference foe Louisiana (72-58). After
suffering a 64-49 defeat at the hands of Belmont on Dec. 13, the Blue Raiders
bounced back in dominating fashion on Tuesday night, dismantling Tennessee
State in a 77-48 final.
Vanderbilt suffered a three-game losing streak in mid-November, falling to
Oregon (74-48), Davidson (75-62) and Marist (50-33), but take away that slide
and it has won five of six matchups. While this bout isn't being played at
VU's Memorial Gymnasium, it's just a short trek to Bridgestone Arena meaning
the Commodores are currently in the midst of a season-long six-game stretch of
games being played in Nashville. The team's first two games during the span
resulted in wins over Alabama A&M (71-46) and Cornell (66-55).
These intrastate rivals have met 33 times before, with Vandy holding a
commanding 29-4 advantage. The programs got together last January, with the
Commodores coming away with an 84-77 victory.
The Blue Raiders have put together an impressive plus-10.2 scoring margin by
shooting 43.8 percent from the floor and holding their opponents to 41.9
percent, and they had another solid all-around effort in the 77-48 win over
Tennessee State earlier this week. Not only did they shoot better than 48
percent on the night, they forced TSU into more turnovers (20) than it had
field goals (14). Raymond Cintron was on point, going 5-of-6 from 3-point
range for a team-high 15 points. Marcos Knight tallied 14 points and six
rebounds in the triumph, while Neiko Hunter and Shawn Jones netted 13 points
apiece. On the season, Knight hasn't been very efficient with his field goal
attempts (.393), but he still nets a team-best 12.5 ppg. Shawn Jones adds 10.0
ppg and 5.7 rpg, while Cintron (8.7 ppg) drains nearly 44 percent of his
launches from beyond the arc. Tweety Knight (5.6 ppg) records 3.0 apg and 1.8
spg, both tops on the squad.
Vanderbilt's offensive attack has been lackluster at best, as it shoots just
42.5 percent from the field for 61.2 ppg, but it has been able to win more
games than it has lost by holding opponents to 41.0 percent shooting and a
mere 60.0 ppg. The Commodores continued with their outstanding defense against
Cornell, which shot just 30.0 percent from the floor, as they made good on 50
percent themselves, including 10-of-20 from long range, in the 11-point
victory. Four starters scored in double figures in the triumph, paced by 17
from Kyle Fuller. Kedren Johnson added 14 points, Rod Odom tallied 13 points
and seven rebounds, and Josh Henderson tacked on 11 points. Johnson has now
scored in double figures in all but one game this season, and he has been one
of the SEC's best guards by making 49.1 percent of his field goal attempts for
17.0 ppg. Fuller scores 13.0 ppg, Odom nets 10.4 ppg, and Kevin Bright tallies
7.2 ppg and 7.3 rpg.
Both teams are sure to get up for this game with state-wide bragging rights on
the line. Even though Vanderbilt has the most potent scorer in Johnson, it has
still struggled for the most part in putting up points, and that is expected
to continue against the defensive-minded Blue Raiders. Points could be at a
premium, but Middle Tennessee hasn't been intimidated on the road, and it'll
come up with a big bucket down the stretch to steal this one.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Middle Tennessee 63, Vanderbilt 60
12/21 10:33:05 ET
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