Florida Atlantic (8-8) at Middle Tennessee (12-4)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, January 10, 8 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Murphy Center (11,520) -- Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Television: None. Home Record: FAU 5-2, MTSU 8-0. Away Record: FAU 2-6, MTSU 4-3. Neutral Record: FAU 1-0, MTSU 0-1. Conference Record: FAU 3-2, MTSU 4-1. Series Record: Middle Tennessee leads, 9-4.
GAME NOTES: The Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders will attempt stay perfect at the Murphy Center, as they entertain the Florida Atlantic Owls on Thursday night in a Sun Belt Conference showdown.
FAU has been very streaky on its way to an 8-8 record. It had won three in a row at the beginning of December only to fall into a three-game losing streak. It's back on the upswing lately however, winning three of its last four decisions.
The Owls improved to 3-2 in conference play on Jan. 3 following a 75-70 home win over Louisiana, thanks to a stellar shooting night from both the floor (.481) and the foul line (.857). Greg Gantt was the catalyst in the victory, scoring 23 points, while Stefan Moody finished with 16 points and nine rebounds, and Pablo Bertone chipped in 12 points.
At 12-4 overall and 4-1 in Sun Belt action, Middle Tennessee has been the best team in the conference through the first two months of the season thanks in large part to its 8-0 home record.
The Blue Raiders hit the road last week, and while they suffered a Jan. 3 loss at Arkansas State (66-60 in OT), they bounced back with a 60-56 win over South Alabama last Saturday. They put together a rather modest night shooting from the field (.426), but they were able to hold the Jaguars to 37 percent accuracy from the floor. Bruce Massey led the way from off the bench with 12 points, while Shawn Jones recorded 11 points and six rebounds.
Middle Tennessee won both matchups against FAU last season to improve to 9-4 in the all-time series.
On the season, FAU has the conference's third-worst scoring margin (minus-3.1), and it shoots just a shade over 40 percent from the field as a team, but it benefits from having the league's top scorer in Gantt. The senior's 22.4 ppg ranks fifth in the nation, and he has put together outstanding percentages from beyond the arc (.429) and from the foul line (.852). Moody (14.0 ppg) and Bertone (8.6 ppg) are the team's top supporting players, and no one else nets more than 5.6 ppg.
Middle Tennessee's success has come as a result of having the league's highest field goal percentage defense (.434) as well as the top-ranked scoring defense, which allows fewer than 60 ppg. Its offensive success has not been typical, as only two players score in double figures on a nightly basis, but 12 guys tally at least two points per game. Marcos Knight (12.4 ppg, 5.9 rpg) and Shawn Jones (10.0 ppg, 6.4 rpg) are the Blue Raiders' most consistent performers, while Tweety Knight (5.9 ppg) has team-highs in assists (2.7 apg) and steals (1.6 spg).
The Blue Raiders may not possess the star power that FAU has in Gantt, but their brand of balanced and efficient basketball has been virtually slump- proof this season, and they should have little issue staying undefeated at home in this one.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Middle Tennessee 73, Florida Atlantic 64
01/10 10:37:02 ET