North Texas (5-8) at Middle Tennessee (10-3)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Monday, December 31, 8 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Murphy Center (11,520) -- Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Television: ESPNU. Home Record: North Texas 3-3, Middle Tennessee 6-0. Away Record: North Texas 0-3, Middle Tennessee 4-2. Neutral Record: North Texas 2-1, Middle Tennessee 0-1. Conference Record: North Texas 0-2, Middle Tennessee 1-0. Series Record: Middle Tennessee leads, 9-6.
GAMES NOTES: In a New Year's Eve matchup of Sun Belt Conference rivals the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders will host the North Texas Mean Green at the Murphy Center.
In its first two conference games North Texas has taken a pair of defeats. The most recent setback was a 70-64 loss on the road to Western Kentucky this past Saturday. The loss was the second straight for the Mean Green and the sixth in the last eight games. North Texas is 5-8 overall including an 0-3 mark in away games. Next up North Texas hosts Troy in the first of back-to-back home games.
Middle Tennessee played its conference opener on Saturday against FIU and easily earned a victory by topping the Panthers 69-52. The win was the third straight for the Blue Raiders who are now 10-3 overall, including a perfect 6-0 mark at the Murphy Center. Middle Tennessee hits the road in its next two games beginning against Arkansas State.
Last season the Blue Raiders swept the season series to earn their third straight victory against the Mean Green. Middle Tennessee leads the all-time series 9-6.
Although North Texas shot a superior 42.1 percent from the floor in comparison to Western Kentucky the Hilltoppers defeated the Mean Green due to advantages from 3-point range (27-15) and the free-throw line (19-11). Jordan Williams came off the bench to score a game-high 18 points in the loss.
On the year North Texas has fought to even in terms of points scored (68.2 ppg) and points allowed (68.2 ppg). The Mean Green is not a particularly efficient shooting team as it connects on an even 40.0 percent of its shots from the field. North Texas had managed to lead the Sun Belt on the boards though by hauling in 39.8 rebounds a game as a team. Tony Mitchell (13.8 ppg, 8.8 rpg) leads the way for those rebounding numbers, while also serving as the lead scorer among four players averaging in double figures. Mitchell has also protected the rim well by swatting 2.5 shots per game. Williams (11.1 ppg), Alzee Williams (10.8 ppg) and Chris Jones (10.2 ppg, 5.0 apg) round out the list of double-figure scorers.
Middle Tennessee had a 43-27 edge on the boards against FIU. Of those rebounds 15 were offensive, leading to 10 second-chance points for the Blue Raiders. Middle Tennessee shot 43.4 percent in the game and were led by the 15-point, 13-rebound double-double of Shawn Jones.
The Blue Raiders have enjoyed a +10.3 scoring margin this season by putting in 69.5 points per game, while limiting opponents to just 59.2. Middle Tennessee also leads the Sun Belt in assists (44.2 pg) and field-goal percentage (.438). Although just fifth in rebounds (37.0 pg) the Blue Raiders have managed to hold a solid +5.5 edge on the glass. There is more of a balanced attack on the offensive end. Marcos Knight (12.2 ppg, 5.5 rpg) and Jones (10.2 ppg, 6.5 rpg) are the only double-figure scorers, while eight other players score at least four points per game.
Thus far no team has managed to come into the Murphy Center and take the Blue Raiders down. That won't change this time around as the depth of Middle Tennessee will outlast the Mean Green.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Middle Tennessee 71, North Texas 65
12/31 10:32:18 ET