Middle Tennessee State (20-3) at Denver (16-7)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, February 4th, 4:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Magness Arena (7,200) -- Denver, Colorado. Television: ESPN2. Home Record: MT 11-1, Denver 10-2. Away Record: MT 9-2, Denver 6-5. Neutral Record: MT 1-0, Denver 0-0. Conference Record: MT 10-0, Denver 6-4. Series Record: Middle Tennessee leads, 9-6.
GAME NOTES: The Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders attempt to stay perfect in Sun Belt Conference play when they take on the Denver Pioneers today at Magness Arena.
Middle Tennessee is enjoying one of the best starts in school history, losing just three times in 23 outings while going unbeaten in conference play. The Blue Raiders answered a difficult task on Thursday night by going on the road and defeating North Texas, 68-66.
Denver has had its fair share of success this season as well, logging 16 overall wins, which is second only to Middle Tennessee for most in the Sun Belt. The Pioneers have been slipping of late however, losing three of their last four, including a 72-71 defeat at the hands of Louisiana on Thursday.
Middle Tennessee leads the all-time series with Denver, 9-6. The Blue Raiders have won two of the last three meetings, including a 59-49 the last time out on January 22, 2011.
Middle Tennessee has been solid in all areas this season, as its ranks first in the Sun Belt in both scoring offense (72.3 ppg) and scoring defense (60.5 ppg). While both units were put to the test against high-powered North Texas on Thursday, the Blue Raiders came out on top behind 50 percent shooting from the field. Marcos Knight was the hero in that clash, netting a career-high 19 points. On the season, Knight (11.9 ppg), LaRon Dendy (13.9 ppg) and JT Sulton (11.2 ppg) all contribute to the balanced offensive attack. The three top scorers for the Blue Raiders have been highly efficient as well, as each shoots at least 50 percent from the floor, and all three grab at least five rebounds per game as well. Middle Tennessee has very few discernable weaknesses, but while it connects on 35.8 percent of its long-range attempts, the team ranks third from the bottom in three-pointers made per game (4.9).
Denver also has a good combination of solid offense and defense, ranking fifth in the SBC in scoring (67.3 ppg) and second in points allowed (61 ppg). The Pioneers are second to the Blue Raiders in field goal percentage (.483) and they top the conference in three-point percentage (.403). Denver is also one of the nation's best units from the foul line (.775). Brian Stafford (14.3 ppg) and Chris Udofia (14.1 ppg) are two of the Sun Belt's top-five scorers, with Stafford also leading in three-pointers made (55) and three-point percentage (.478). Stafford struggled in the recent loss to Louisiana however, scoring a season-low three points. Though Denver's offense struggled, connecting on just 39.4 percent of its total shots and 5-of-14 from three- point range, Royce O'Neale enjoyed a career game as he recorded his first-ever double-double with 21 points and 13 rebounds.
Denver is happy to be back home after losing three straight away from Magness Arena, but facing Middle Tennessee will be its toughest test yet. The Blue Raiders are road-tested and will pull out another hard-earned victory to move to 11-0 in conference play.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Middle Tennessee 65, Denver 61
02/04 10:40:51 ET