FIU (4-6) at Middle Tennessee (9-3)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, December 29, 6 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Murphy Center (11,520) -- Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
Television: None. Home Record: FIU 1-2, MTSU 5-0. Away Record: FIU 3-4, MTSU
3-2. Neutral Record: FIU 0-0, MTSU 1-1. Conference Record: FIU 1-2, MTSU 1-0.
Series Record: Middle Tennessee leads, 21-6.
GAME NOTES: The Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders will attempt to keep their
perfect record at the Murphy Center alive on Saturday night when they take on
the FIU Panthers in a Sun Belt Conference showdown.
This bout marks the final leg of a grueling six-game road trip for FIU, and
while it was able to keep its head above water with wins over Stetson (82-79)
and Texas Southern (48-45), it fell to 2-3 on the swing following a 76-63 loss
at Western Kentucky on Thursday. The Panthers are now just 4-6 on the year.
Middle Tennessee's impressive start to the season has only been tarnished by
three difficult losses at Akron (82-77) and Belmont (64-49), and on a neutral
floor to nationally-ranked Florida (66-45). The Blue Raiders are currently
winners of four of their last five games, most recently dismissing Vanderbilt
in Nashville on Dec. 21, 56-52.
The Blue Raiders have dominated the series with FIU of late, winning six
straight games to move to 21-6 all-time.
FIU hasn't exactly been terrible at the offensive end of the floor this year,
shooting 42.3 percent from the field for 68.6 ppg, but its biggest problem has
been keeping opponents off the scoreboard, as it allows teams to shoot a lofty
47.6 percent from the floor for 72.5 ppg. That was again the case on Thursday,
as WKU made nearly 55 percent of its shots overall on its way to handing the
Panthers the 13-point loss. Despite the setback, Malik Smith was impressive
from 3-point range (5-of-11) en route to 20 points, while Jerome Frink (15
points) and Tymell Murphy (14 points, eight rebounds) also put together strong
performances. Smith paces the squad with 14.9 ppg, accounting for nearly half
of the team's output from 3-point land (32-of-82). Murphy (13.0 ppg) and Frink
(10.7 ppg) are both valuable assets in the frontcourt, as each shoots greater
than 51 percent from the field while grabbing 6.5 rpg.
Middle Tennessee has seen better shooting days than it had against Vanderbilt
the last time out (.438), but some timely buckets down the stretch allowed it
to overcome a late deficit to capture the comeback victory. At the defensive
end, the Blue Raiders held Vandy to just as many field goals as turnovers
committed (18). Bruce Massey was able to overcome his team's modest shooting
night by going 7-of-10 from the field for 17 points, while Kerry Hammonds
added 11 points off the bench. On the season, the Blue Raiders score just shy
of 70 ppg, and they boast a plus-9.8 scoring margin by holding opponents to
42.0 percent field goal efficiency. While only Marcos Knight (11.9 ppg)
averages double digits on a nightly basis, the Blue Raiders rely on a deep
rotation, as 10 different player net at least four points per contest. Shawn
Jones is a reliable option in the frontcourt, tallying 9.8 ppg and 6.0 rpg
while shooting 51.1 percent from the floor.
While the Blue Raiders don't have many players that wow you, their
comprehensive team effort has worked to great effect this season, and not much
is expected to change in this one playing on their home floor against a shaky
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Middle Tennessee 71, FIU 58
12/29 10:37:36 ET
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