Ole Miss (6-0) at Middle Tennessee (6-2)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, December 8, 5 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Murphy Center (11,520) -- Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: Ole Miss 6-0, MTSU 3-0. Away Record: Ole Miss 0-0, MTSU 3-2. Neutral Record: Ole Miss 0-0, MTSU 0-0. Conference Record: Ole Miss 0-0, MTSU 1-0. Series Record: Middle Tennessee leads, 3-2.
GAME NOTES: The Ole Miss Rebels take their unbeaten record on the road for the first time this season when they challenge the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders at the Murphy Center on Saturday.
Ole Miss opened the first month of the season with a lengthy six-game home stand, and it took full advantage by winning all six matchups. The Rebels' latest contest took place last Saturday against Rutgers as part of the SEC/Big East Challenge, and they came away with an impressive 80-67 victory.
Middle Tennessee is also off to a fast start with wins in six of its first eight games, which includes an early-season Sun Belt Conference bout against Louisiana on Nov. 29 (72-58). The Blue Raiders were able to bounce back from a tough overtime loss at Akron last Sunday (82-77) by making easy work of UAB at home on Wednesday, 84-64.
These two teams met last December, with the Blue Raiders winning, 68-56, in a neutral-court game in Southaven, Mississippi. The victory gave Middle Tennessee a narrow 3-2 advantage in the all-time series.
The Rebels have been nothing short of dominant in their first six games, as they shoot nearly 46 percent from the floor in netting a lofty 87.0 ppg (second in the nation), outscoring their opponents by almost 30 ppg in the process. The 13-point win over Rutgers may not have been the blowout they have become accustomed to, but it was able to overcome a first-half deficit and a dreadful showing at the foul line (17-of-39) to stay perfect. Murphy Holloway was a force in the paint with 17 points and 15 rebounds, while Marshall Henderson scored a game-high 18 points despite putting together a disappointing showing from the field (4-of-13). Reginald Buckner also tallied a double-double with 14 points and 11 boards, adding three blocks to boot, and LaDarius White came off the bench to tack on 13 points on 3-of-4 from three- point range. On the season, Henderson averages 17.2 ppg but on just 37.5 percent field goal accuracy. Holloway, one of the best forwards in the SEC, has been much more efficient with his shots (.661) in putting up 16.0 ppg while also grabbing more than 10 rebounds per contest. Buckner (10.5 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 2.8 bpg, 1.8 spg) joins Holloway in the frontcourt to form one of the best forward duos in the conference.
While its offensive production hasn't stood out nearly as much as its counterpart today, Middle Tennessee is nonetheless off to a fine start in hitting 45.3 percent of its field goal attempts for 73.4 ppg. It put together perhaps its best all-around performance of the year in the win over UAB, making more than 50 percent of its shots from the field while also stepping up at the defensive end, forcing UAB into more turnovers (20) than it had field goals (19). The balanced effort for the Blue Raiders saw nine different players score at least five points, paced by Raymond Cintron (13 points) and Shawn Jones (12 points, five rebounds). They typically count on plenty of production from their bench, with seven players averaging 5.5 ppg or more. Marcos Knight is the leading scorer with 13.1 ppg, and Jones also tallies double figures with 10.4 ppg. Both grab better than six boards per game as well for a team that outrebounds its opponents by 6.5 rpg.
While Ole Miss has been fantastic, it has yet to face a test as difficult as this road matchup with a very good Middle Tennessee squad. The Rebels will undoubtedly put plenty of points on the board, but the Blue Raiders have yet to lose in their own building and they will find a way to pull this one out late.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Middle Tennessee 84, Ole Miss 81
12/08 10:35:49 ET