Middle Tennessee (24-4) at U-L-M (2-25)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, February 23rd, 8:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Fant-Ewing Coliseum (8,000) -- Monroe, Louisiana. Television: None. Home Record: MT 14-1, ULM 0-12. Away Record: MT 9-3, ULM 2-11. Neutral Record: MT 1-0, ULM 0-0. Conference Record: MT 13-1, ULM 1-11. Series Record: ULM leads, 6-5.
GAME NOTES: Two teams on opposite ends of the Sun Belt Conference standings square off tonight in Monroe, as the ULM Warhawks play host to the Blue Raiders of Middle Tennessee tonight at Fant-Ewing Coliseum.
Middle Tennessee is in the midst of an outstanding season, winning 24 of 28 games overall and at 13-1 in the Sun Belt, has clinched both first place in the East Division as well as the top seed in next weeks' Sun Belt Conference Tournament. The Blue Raiders are winners of four of their last five, the latest being a 72-59 triumph over Florida Atlantic last Saturday.
On the other hand, ULM is having one of the worst seasons in school history, as the team is a woeful 2-25 overall and sits alone in last place in the Sun Belt Conference West standings with a 1-13 mark. Even at home, ULM has struggled mightily, losing 11 of 13 games in Monroe. The Warhawks have dropped 10 consecutive games, a season-high, and their latest loss came in blowout fashion to Denver last Saturday, 76-57.
ULM holds a 6-5 advantage in the all-time series, although Middle Tennessee has closed the gap by winning four in a row over the Warhawks in recent years.
Middle Tennessee has been far and away the Sun Belt's best and most consistent team this year, ranking first in scoring offense (71.7 ppg) and second in field goal percentage (.493), while also ranking second in scoring defense (61.1 ppg) and first in field goal percentage defense (.387). The strong all- around performance continued in last Saturday's win, as the Blue Raiders shot 49 percent from the floor while holding Florida Atlantic to 34.8 percent efficiency. LaRon Dendy continued his stellar season in the win, logging 20 points and 10 rebounds for his third straight 20-point performance and his sixth double-double of the year. Dendy is the SBC's leading scorer at 14.9 ppg and he also grabs the third-most rebounds (7.1 rpg) and connects on 52.9 percent of his field goal attempts. Middle Tennessee is far from a one-man team however, as Marcos Knight (11.9 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 2.9 apg) and JT Sulton (10.8 ppg, 5.6 rpg) are also solid performers.
Much like in the standings, ULM occupies the opposite end of the rankings as compared to Middle Tennessee, sitting last in scoring offense (59.7 ppg) and next-to-last in scoring defense (71.3 ppg). The Warhawks kept with the trend in last Saturday's loss, and though they shot a respectable 47.6 percent from the floor, they scored fewer than 60 points for the 10th time this season and they allowed Denver to shoot a lofty 55.3 percent overall. Fred Brown has been one of the squad's only sources of optimism these days as he averages 12.6 ppg and ranks second in the conference in free-throw percentage (.857). Brown continued his stellar play against Denver, netting 15 points on 5-of-11 shooting from the floor. Charles Winborne is the only other Warhawk averaging double figures with 10.9 ppg. Not surprisingly, ULM struggles in both rebounding margin (-3.8) and turnover margin (-1.93).
Even though this game has no baring on the upcoming conference tournament, every win counts for Middle Tennessee as it tries to bolster its resume'. The only thing ULM can hope for is that this one doesn't get out of hand too early.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Middle Tennessee 82, ULM 62
02/23 10:36:54 ET