Middle Tennessee (11-4) at South Alabama (7-6)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, January 5, 8:05 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Mitchell Center (10,041) -- Mobile, Alabama. Television: None. Home Record: MTSU 8-0, USA 3-2. Away Record: MTSU 3-3, USA 4-2. Neutral Record: MTSU 0-1, USA 0-2. Conference Record: MTSU 3-1, USA 4-1. Series Record: Middle Tennessee leads, 15-12.
GAME NOTES: Something has got to give as the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders visit the Mitchell Center to take on the South Alabama Jaguars in a Sun Belt Conference tilt.
The Blue Raiders own the lowest scoring defense in the SBC with a mere allowed average of 59.5 ppg. A stingy defensive effort was not enough the last time Middle Tennessee took the floor however, as it fell, 66-60, in overtime at Arkansas State for its first loss in league play. The setback also snapped the team's four-game winning streak. In addition to leading the conference in scoring defense, the Blue Raiders are fourth on the other end with 69.2 ppg.
South Alabama occupies the number one spot on the SBC's scoring offense list with 71.3 ppg. The Jaguars exhibited their ability of filling it up on Thursday as they outlasted ULM to earn a 77-72 decision on the road. The victory was the third in four games for USA, which is just 3-2 at the Mitchell Center.
This will be the 28th meeting in history between these schools. Middle Tennessee holds a 15-12 all-time series lead after winning the three most recent encounters.
Although Marcos Knight poured in a game-high 23 points and came up just one rebound shy of a double-double, Middle Tennessee could not find its touch in overtime and lost by six to Arkansas State. Tweety Knight chipped in 12 points and six boards off the bench, but the team went just 19-of-59 from the floor and was outscored, 21-19, at the charity stripe even though ASU missed 15 free throws. Knight is the only Blue Raider with a double-digit scoring average at 12.9 ppg, but Shawn Jones is extremely close (9.9 ppg) to joining him. Jones is also pulling down 6.4 rpg, which is a team-high.
Augustine Rubit's campaign for SBC Player of the Year continued on Thursday as he registered an impressive double-double of 32 points and 13 rebounds to push the Jaguars past the Warhawks. Rubit's effort on the glass gave USA a 39-15 edge in the rebounding battle, but ULM was able to convert 25 its turnovers into 33 points. Rubit is second in the league in scoring (20 ppg) and first in rebounding (11 rpg). Second leading scorer Xavier Roberson (13.6 ppg) did not play versus ULM due to suspension, but Dre Conner added 12 points off the bench to make up for his absence.
Although Rubit is playing at an extremely high level and Middle Tennessee is on the road, the Blue Raiders still hold a slight edge in this one. South Alabama will have trouble keeping up as the experienced visitors roll into Mobile with their very efficient team play. If Roberson is not back in the lineup for the Jaguars, they will need another player to provide supplemental scoring to give Rubit some relief.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Middle Tennessee 71, South Alabama 65
01/05 10:36:50 ET