Middle Tennessee (7-2) at Belmont (6-2)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, December 13, 7 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Curb Event Center (5,000) -- Nashville, Tennessee. Television: CSS, ESPN3. Home Record: Middle Tennessee 4-0, Belmont 2-0. Away Record: Middle Tennessee 3-1, Belmont 3-1. Neutral Record: Middle Tennessee 0-1, Belmont 1-1. Conference Record: Middle Tennessee 0-0, Belmont 0-0. Series Record: Middle Tennessee leads, 20-12.
GAME NOTES: The Belmont Bruins will try to stay perfect at the Curb Events Center this season when they host the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders for a non- conference tilt on Thursday.
Kermit Davis and his Blue Raiders won their second consecutive game on Saturday by defeating Ole Miss, 65-62, in a thriller in Murfreesboro. Middle Tennessee has picked up impressive decisions over UCF (75-61), Louisiana (72-58), and UAB (84-64) on the way to its 7-2 overall record. The Blue Raiders, who have a deeper rotation than most, are generating 72.4 points per game, which is 11 points more than their opposition is averaging.
The Bruins are coming off of a 100-66 rout of Lipscomb, which improved their record to 6-2. Belmont has alternated losses with wins since starting out its 2012-13 campaign out with four straight victories. Coach Rick Byrd has his squad playing very well on both ends of the floor as it is producing 78.4 ppg on 48.4 percent shooting, including a 43.6 mark on attempts from beyond the arc. The Bruins have limited their opponents to 64.1 ppg on 39.2 percent shooting.
This will be the 33rd meeting in history between these schools on the hardwood. Middle Tennessee holds a 20-12 edge in the all-time series after its thrilling 65-62 win in the last encounter on Dec. 13, 2011.
Middle Tennessee stepped up on the defensive end its last time out to keep the Rebels at bay. It forced Ole Miss into 18 turnovers and held the SEC program to 5-of-21 shooting from 3-point range to overcome a 35-30 deficit in rebounding. Senior guard Marcos Knight paced the team with 14 points. After a pair of 21-point performances this season, Knight is averaging a team-high 13.2 ppg. Junior forward Shawn Jones, who has registered two double-doubles this year, is a solid role player with 10 points and a team-high 6.2 board per outing. Swingman Jason Jones has been streaky, but he has shown the ability to get it going in the past and could be a factor if Belmont allows him to get into a rhythm early.
There was very little doubt which side was in control the last time Belmont took the floor. The Bruins knocked down 15-of-35 attempts from 3-point range to run to the 34-point win over Lipscomb. Senior leadership was apparent in the backcourt as Ian Clark poured in 30 points and Kerron Johnson tallied 17. Clark is pacing the team with 19.4 ppg, while Johnson is second with 13.9 ppg. Senior Trevor Noack (11.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg) and junior Blake Jenkins (10.4 ppg, 5.0 rpg) form a decent frontcourt for Belmont, which also has a solid playmaker in swingman J.J. Mann.
This is a huge game for both sides, as each could find themselves in the NCAA Tournament field. The Blue Raiders will have a tough time overcoming the homecourt advantage and slowing down Clark. However, Middle Tennessee's five playing as one philosophy has been nothing but successful since the beginning of last season. Belmont's perfect home record is going to face a very tough test in what will be a hard-fought contest.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Belmont 74, Middle Tennessee 72
12/13 10:30:45 ET