Middle Tennessee (5-1) at Akron (3-2)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Sunday, December 2, 2 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: James A. Rhodes Arena (5,500) -- Akron, Ohio. Television: None. Home Record: MTSU 2-0, Akron 1-0. Away Record: MTSU 3-0, Akron 0-1. Neutral Record: MTSU 0-1, Akron 2-0. Conference Record: MTSU 1-0, Akron 0-0. Series Record: Middle Tennessee leads, 15-9.
GAME NOTES: The Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders will try to keep their undefeated road record alive on Sunday afternoon when they take on the Akron Zips at James A. Rhodes Arena.
Since losing to nationally-ranked Florida on Nov. 18, Middle Tennessee has won three straight games to climb to 5-1 on the season. The Blue Raiders played an early-season Sun Belt Conference bout at Louisiana on Thursday night, coming away with a 72-58 win.
After losing its opening-round matchup to Oklahoma State in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off (69-65 in OT), Akron was able to bounce back with wins over UNC-Asheville (82-63) and Penn State (85-60) in the consolation bracket. This will mark the first game for the Zips since their win over PSU 14 days ago.
Middle Tennessee leads the all-time series over Akron, 15-9, which includes a 77-53 victory in Murfreesboro in December of 2011.
The Blue Raiders have established themselves as one of the most well-rounded teams in the Sun Belt over the past few seasons, and their start to the 2012-13 has been no different as they score 71.0 ppg on 44.2 percent field goal shooting while allowing opponents to put up less than 58 ppg. Middle Tennessee shot a modest 41.7 percent in its latest game versus Louisiana, but it managed to drain seven three-pointers and win the rebounding battle, 40-31, to come away with the impressive 14-point road victory. James Gallman led the way with 14 points, and while Marcos Knight had an off-night shooting (5-of-16), he still finished with 12 points and seven rebounds. Jason Jones (11 points) and Tweety Knight (10 points) were flawless off the bench, combining to shoot 10-of-10 from the floor. Knight (12.3 ppg) and Shawn Jones (10.5 ppg) are the team's leading scorers and both grab more than six rebounds per game. No other Blue Raider scores in double figures, but the team relies on several role players to fill out their scoring, as six players average between 5.2 and 8.3 ppg.
Akron likes to push the tempo offensively, which has led to it scoring nearly 80 ppg on 45.2 percent field goal shooting (including 40.6 percent from beyond the arc). Everything was clicking in its latest win over Penn State as it made good on 27-of-48 field goal attempts (with eight 3-pointers) and put together a solid showing at the foul line (23-of-31) en route to 85 points. Zeke Marshall was the catalyst in the middle, shooting 3-of-3 from the floor and 11-of-15 from the line for 17 points while also adding seven rebounds and six blocked shots. The seven-footer has tallied 11.6 ppg and 8.4 rpg on the young season, and he's one of the nation's premiere shot-blockers as his 4.4 bpg, ranking behind only Kansas' Jeff Withey (5.7) and Arizona State's Jordan Bachynski (5.3). Also netting double figures in the win was Jake Kretzer with 11 points on 3-of-6 from long range and Demetrius Treadwell and Carmelo Betancourt with 10 points apiece. The Zips don't have a go-to guy on the offensive end, but instead they rely on balanced production from Marshall, Brian Walsh (11.4 ppg), Alex Abreu (10.8), Kretzer (10.8), Chauncy Gilliam (8.8), and Treadwell (8.0).
The Zips have the type of balanced squad that can pick apart the Middle Tennessee defensive gameplan, especially on their home floor, but with two weeks between games, it wouldn't be a surprise if they came out rusty. The Blue Raiders have been disciplined and efficient all season long and they should be able to conquer yet another road tilt in this one.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Middle Tennessee 78, Akron 74
12/02 10:37:24 ET