Middle Tennessee (8-3) vs. Vanderbilt (5-4)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, December 21, 9 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Bridgestone Arena (20,000) -- Nashville, Tennessee. Television: ESPNU. Home Record: MTSU 5-0, Vanderbilt 3-1. Away Record: MTSU 3-2, Vanderbilt 1-1. Neutral Record: MTSU 0-1, Vanderbilt 1-2. Conference Record: MTSU 1-0, Vanderbilt 0-0. Series Record: Vanderbilt leads, 29-4.
GAME NOTES: The Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders will take the 35-mile trip north to Nashville on Friday night to square off against the Vanderbilt Commodores at Bridgestone Arena.
Middle Tennessee has started the season an impressive 8-3, and in addition to going undefeated at home, it has also won three road games over Savannah State (58-55), UCF (75-61) and Sun Belt Conference foe Louisiana (72-58). After suffering a 64-49 defeat at the hands of Belmont on Dec. 13, the Blue Raiders bounced back in dominating fashion on Tuesday night, dismantling Tennessee State in a 77-48 final.
Vanderbilt suffered a three-game losing streak in mid-November, falling to Oregon (74-48), Davidson (75-62) and Marist (50-33), but take away that slide and it has won five of six matchups. While this bout isn't being played at VU's Memorial Gymnasium, it's just a short trek to Bridgestone Arena meaning the Commodores are currently in the midst of a season-long six-game stretch of games being played in Nashville. The team's first two games during the span resulted in wins over Alabama A&M (71-46) and Cornell (66-55).
These intrastate rivals have met 33 times before, with Vandy holding a commanding 29-4 advantage. The programs got together last January, with the Commodores coming away with an 84-77 victory.
The Blue Raiders have put together an impressive plus-10.2 scoring margin by shooting 43.8 percent from the floor and holding their opponents to 41.9 percent, and they had another solid all-around effort in the 77-48 win over Tennessee State earlier this week. Not only did they shoot better than 48 percent on the night, they forced TSU into more turnovers (20) than it had field goals (14). Raymond Cintron was on point, going 5-of-6 from 3-point range for a team-high 15 points. Marcos Knight tallied 14 points and six rebounds in the triumph, while Neiko Hunter and Shawn Jones netted 13 points apiece. On the season, Knight hasn't been very efficient with his field goal attempts (.393), but he still nets a team-best 12.5 ppg. Shawn Jones adds 10.0 ppg and 5.7 rpg, while Cintron (8.7 ppg) drains nearly 44 percent of his launches from beyond the arc. Tweety Knight (5.6 ppg) records 3.0 apg and 1.8 spg, both tops on the squad.
Vanderbilt's offensive attack has been lackluster at best, as it shoots just 42.5 percent from the field for 61.2 ppg, but it has been able to win more games than it has lost by holding opponents to 41.0 percent shooting and a mere 60.0 ppg. The Commodores continued with their outstanding defense against Cornell, which shot just 30.0 percent from the floor, as they made good on 50 percent themselves, including 10-of-20 from long range, in the 11-point victory. Four starters scored in double figures in the triumph, paced by 17 from Kyle Fuller. Kedren Johnson added 14 points, Rod Odom tallied 13 points and seven rebounds, and Josh Henderson tacked on 11 points. Johnson has now scored in double figures in all but one game this season, and he has been one of the SEC's best guards by making 49.1 percent of his field goal attempts for 17.0 ppg. Fuller scores 13.0 ppg, Odom nets 10.4 ppg, and Kevin Bright tallies 7.2 ppg and 7.3 rpg.
Both teams are sure to get up for this game with state-wide bragging rights on the line. Even though Vanderbilt has the most potent scorer in Johnson, it has still struggled for the most part in putting up points, and that is expected to continue against the defensive-minded Blue Raiders. Points could be at a premium, but Middle Tennessee hasn't been intimidated on the road, and it'll come up with a big bucket down the stretch to steal this one.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Middle Tennessee 63, Vanderbilt 60
12/21 10:33:05 ET