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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Sunday, December 29, 4:30 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: McKenzie Arena (11,218) -- Chattanooga, Tennessee. Television: None. Home Record: Middle Tennessee 7-1, Maine 1-4. Away Record: Middle Tennessee 1-3, Maine 0-5. Neutral Record: Middle Tennessee 0-0, Maine 0-0. Conference Record: Middle Tennessee 0-0, Maine 0-0. Series Record: First- ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: The Maine Black Bears seek their first win since Nov. 10, as they clash with the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders as part of the annual Dr. Pepper Classic at McKenzie Arena in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Maine's lone win this season was a 111-64 thrashing of Fisher more than a month ago, which means the team is still waiting for that first victory over a Division I foe. Most recently, the Black Bears were taken down by Providence on the road, 94-70, back on Dec. 21.
As for the Blue Raiders, they have a much more impressive record of 8-4 at the moment, although the list of victims doesn't exactly scream dominance for a team which has scored triple figures against the likes of Fisk and Tennessee Temple in order to boost its stats. The latest outing for the program had it stopping at Cincinnati last weekend and leaving with an awkward 69-48 loss.
Following this first-ever meeting, both teams will be back in action on Monday against either host Chattanooga or Grand Canyon, depending on the outcomes of both matchups today.
Middle Tennessee held the Bearcats to a mere 6-of-23 shooting from the field and 21 points in the first half of their meeting, but at the same time the Blue Raiders also shot the ball poorly (5-of-21) and it only got slightly better in the second half (7-of-24), en route to the lopsided setback. The visitors didn't have a single starter score in double figures, although Tweety Knight did finish with a team-best 10 rebounds to go along with seven points and five assists, not to mention six turnovers. Off the bench, Kerry Hammonds accounted for 17 points on 5-of-8 shooting behind the 3-point line.
Hammonds is currently third on the scoring list for the season with 11.9 ppg, trailing Shawn Jones and Neiko Hunter who are responsible for 13.4 and 12.8 ppg, respectively. Jones, a 61.9 percent shooter from the floor who is smart enough to know that taking shots from beyond the arc is not his forte, is also first on the glass with 7.7 rpg. Knight (8.5 ppg) has tried to compensate for just 39.5 percent shooting by handing out 58 assists and making 24 steals to pace the group in those two categories.
Maine came up with a respectable 70 points in the last outing, but when you consider the team allowed 94 to the Friars it really did make much of a difference. Zarko Valjarevic shot 6-of-8 from the floor, including 4-of-5 behind the 3-point line, as he finished with 16 points for the Black Bears, followed by Xavier Pollard with 15 points and a team-best five rebounds. The team shot the ball well enough from the field (.509), but they were crushed on the glass by a 46-23 margin.
Running with a four-guard offense, Maine figures to be at a disadvantage when it comes to hitting the boards and that couldn't more the case with the team collecting 32.9 rpg but allowing 43.8 rpg. Doing his best to make sure there are not too many rebounds to be had to begin with, Pollard is shooting 52.3 ppg as he leads the unit with 16.7 ppg. Dimitry Coronel (13.7 ppg), Valjarevic (13.4 ppg) and Shaun Lawton (10.0 ppg) have also been key figures for an offense generating 75.8 ppg.
Permitting a whopping 90.0 ppg over the course of 10 games, the Black Bears are appearing more and more like patsies in this meeting and the one tomorrow. Keeping this meeting from being a blowout loss would at least be a moral victory for Maine.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Middle Tennessee 81, Maine 64
12/29 11:05:30 ET
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