Belmont (11-6) at Tennessee-Martin (5-13)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, January 11, 5 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Elam Center (5,000) -- Martin, Tennessee. Television: None. Home Record: Belmont 5-1, UTM 3-4. Away Record: Belmont 4-5, UTM 2-9. Neutral Record: Belmont 2-0, UTM 0-0. Conference Record: Belmont 3-0, UTM 0-3. Series Record: Tennessee-Martin leads, 20-12.
GAME NOTES: The Belmont Bruins look to continue their dominance of the Ohio Valley Conference as they take on the Tennessee-Martin Skyhawks at the Elam Center.
Belmont went 14-2 in OVC games last season before going on to win the conference tournament title in its inaugural year in the league. The Bruins improved to 11-6 overall and 3-0 in conference play with a 107-94 road victory over Southeast Missouri State on Thursday. After setting a new season-high for points against the Redhawks, Rick Byrd's team is averaging 80.2 ppg on an OVC- leading 50.2 percent shooting from the floor. Belmont is allowing 77.6 ppg to its opposition, but its scoring defense average should decrease now that its very difficult non-conference slate is completed.
The Skyhawks dropped to 0-3 in the league standings last Sunday when they were defeated, 91-77, at Murray State. The loss was the fifth in a row for UT Martin, which is now 5-13 on the campaign. Coach Jason James watched his squad get outscored, 33-15, at the free-throw line by the Racers its last time out. UT Martin is ranked last among OVC schools in scoring defense due to its allowance of 79.8 ppg. It is also last in the league in field-goal efficiency (39.8 percent).
This marks the 34th meeting between Belmont and UT Martin. The Bruins won last season in Nashville by a 90-53 margin. The Skyhawks own a 20-12 all-time series lead.
The Bruins powered past Southeast Missouri State with a very impressive offensive performance. They connected on 63.3 percent of their field-goal attempts including 17-of-26 from beyond the arc and tallied 21 assists against just six turnovers. The backcourt play was tremendous as J.J. Mann poured in a team-high 25 points, while Craig Bradshaw posted 24 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Mann is the sixth leading scorer in the OVC at 16.6 ppg. Bradshaw is netting 14.8 ppg and Windler is third on Belmont in the scoring column with 11.9 ppg. The Bruins' top three scorers are all dangerous from 3- point range, having combined for 105 makes from beyond the arc.
UTM is led by junior forward Myles Taylor, who has averaged 20 ppg and 9.8 rpg over the span of his last five outings. The 6-foot-7 forward posted 15 points and seven boards in the loss to MSU, while Terence Smith tallied a team-high 19 points. Other Skyhawks also contributed in the loss as Marshun Newell had 17 points and Justin Childs chipped in 10 points. UTM finished 8-of-24 from beyond the arc and committed 11 turnovers, which were converted into 13 Racer points. Smith averages 14.2 ppg and Newell is tied with Mike Liabo for third on the team at 11.4 ppg. Liabo has been held under 10 points in five consecutive outings and shot 25 percent from the field during his slump.
The Skyhawks will need Liabo, Newell and Smith to provide assistance for Taylor, who will be the main focus of Belmont's defense. The Bruins will run off to another double-digit victory if their lights out shooting continues, but they will have trouble matching Thursday's sensational performance.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Belmont 83, Tennessee-Martin 70
01/11 10:38:03 ET