Middle Tennessee (2-0) vs. (10) Florida (2-0)
Sunday, November 18, 4 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Frank Haynes, Senior College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Tampa Bay Times Forum (19,000) -- Tampa, Florida. Television: Sun Sports, FSN-FL. Home Record: Middle Tennessee 1-0, Florida 2-0. Away Record: Middle Tennessee 1-0, Florida 0-0. Neutral Record: Middle Tennessee 0-0, Florida 0-0. Conference Record: Middle Tennessee 0-0, Florida 0-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: Fresh off a blowout win over a nationally-ranked opponent, No. 10 Florida gets back to action on Sunday afternoon as it takes on Middle Tennessee in Tampa in the first-ever meeting between the two schools.
Middle Tennessee is 2-0 on the young season as the team dismantled Alabama State in the opener, 97-53, but played it much closer to the vest in a 58-55 triumph over Savanna State last Tuesday. The Blue Raiders haven't faced a ranked opponent since dropping a 75-54 decision to No. 9 Tennessee on Dec. 11, 2009, and this is the first of three games (Ole Miss and Vanderbilt being the others) the team will play against foes from the SEC. MT will play its first Sun Belt Conference game at Louisiana on Nov. 29, but won't get into the meat of its league ledger until late December.
Florida has had little trouble getting to 2-0 this year, whipping the same Alabama State (84-35) squad Middle Tennessee took care of, but its next opponent was supposed to be much tougher yet the Gators destroyed No. 22 Wisconsin as well, winning 74-56. Both bouts took place at home, and following this clash on Florida's Gulf Coast, the team will return home for three straight. The rest of the Gators' non-conference schedule has some tough outs in Marquette, Florida State, Arizona and Kansas State. SEC play gets underway for UF at home versus Georgia on Jan. 9, 2013.
Marcos Knight scored a career-high 21 points to lead Middle Tennessee to its recent win over Savannah State. Knight went 5-of-8 from the field and converted all 10 of his free-throw attempts, while adding seven rebounds and a pair of steals to his impressive stat line. No other MT Player scored in double figures, as the team as a whole shot just 42.1 percent from the floor and only attempted two three-pointers, making one of them. Both teams were incredibly careless with the ball, each committing 21 turnovers, but the Blue Raiders had a decided advantage in points from the charity stripe (25-11). Knight leads the team in scoring with his 12.5 ppg, and Jason Jones has hit all nine of his field goal attempts in netting 10.5 ppg. JT Sulton heads the club's rebounding effort with 7.0 rpg. A strong defensive effort has resulted in foes shooting just 38 percent from the floor, which includes a dismal 8- of-30 (.267) showing from beyond the arc. Those same opponents are turning the ball over an average of 21.5 times per game.
Eric Murphy put forth a monster effort in Florida's rout of Wisconsin earlier in the week, scoring 24 points, grabbing eight rebounds and logging both a steal and a blocked shot as well. Murphy was a perfect 10-of-10 from the field, which included a pair of three-pointers, which helped the Gators shoot a lofty 75 percent in the first half and 61.9 percent for the game. Mike Rosario added 15 points, four boards and four assists, while Kenny Boynton rounded out the unit's double-digit scorers with 10 points despite making good on only 3-of-9 field goal attempts. The Badgers struggled to find an offensive rhythm, hitting just 35.6 percent of their total shots, which included a 7- of-24 showing from beyond the arc. Florida easily won the battle on the boards (40-21), and owns a +19.5 rebounding margin on the season. The team's scoring margin checks in at a gaudy +33.5, but its in the negative when it comes to turnovers (-1.5). Murphy is averaging 19.5 points and 5.5 caroms per contest, while Boynton settles in at 16.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists per outing. Rosario (14.5 ppg) and Patric Young (10.0 ppg, team-high 9.5 rpg) round out the double-digit scorers. The Gators are shooting 53 percent from the field, while allowing just 28 percent success to the opposition.
Despite their 2-0 record, the Blue Raiders aren't likely to put up much of a fight against the Gators, who are superior in nearly every aspect of the game.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Florida 78, Middle Tennessee 58
11/18 10:41:53 ET