GAME NOTES: The Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders look to continue their dominance over Florida Atlantic as they square off with the Owls at FAU Arena in a Conference USA contest.
This will be the 16th meeting in history between the Blue Raiders and FAU. Middle Tennessee has won the last four encounters to take an 11-4 all-time series lead.
The Blue Raiders powered past Old Dominion for a 64-48 victory in their last outing. The win was the third in a row for Middle Tennessee, which is tied for third in the C-USA standings with a 5-2 record. Coach Kermit Davis's team has outscored the opposition by an average of 8.2 ppg this season. The Blue Raiders have done a solid job of taking care of the ball which has led to a second place rank in the C-USA in turnover margin (2.64). Middle Tennessee's ability to force mistakes played a factor against ODU as it converted the Monarch's 15 turnovers into 18 points.
The Owls concluded a three-game road trip that began with a pair of losses on Saturday against Marshall at the Cam Henderson Center. Coach Mike Jarvis's team improved to 2-10 in true road games by downing the Thundering Herd, 65-57. FAU put forth a strong effort on the boards to finish the contest with a 37-29 advantage in total rebounds and also sank 53.2 percent of its field goal attempts against Marshall. The Owls are netting only 64.4 ppg through their first seven C-USA games.
Shawn Jones recorded his eighth double-double of the season in Middle Tennessee's rout of ODU with 20 points and 10 rebounds. The 6-foot-8 senior forward has been unstoppable over his past two games, hitting on 18-of-25 shots from the floor over that span. Jones is the ninth-leading scorer in league play with 15.4 ppg. Kerry Hammonds, who logs a team-high 31.6 minutes per game and nets 12.4 ppg, added 14 points for the Blue Raiders in their win over the Monarchs. Middle Tennessee has plenty of depth with nine players clocking at least 15 mpg. Neiko Hunter is a key contributor in the scoring column at 12.4 ppg while Tweety Knight is averaging 4.6 assists and 2.2 steals per outing.
FAU's Justin Raffington will provide a challenge for Jones on the interior. Raffington set a new career-high with 19 points and also grabbed 10 rebounds in the Owls' win at Marshall. The 6-9 junior center sank 8-of-9 shots from the field, while senior guard Pablo Bertone tallied 20 points. Although Raffington is pacing the league in C-USA play in rebounds with 11 rpg, Betrone is the clear leader of the squad. The 6-4 guard is clocking a career-high 33.6 minutes per game and pacing the conference with 18.3 ppg, which is nearly double his scoring average from the 2012-13 campaign. Sophomore guard Jackson Trapp is the Owls' third-leading scorer at 9.9 ppg, but he has been held to eight points or less in five consecutive games and shooting only 11-of-36 from the field during that span.
Although the Blue Raiders own a much more impressive resume, they have not been as dominant on the road. Middle Tennessee will make a statement if it carries its momentum into its visit to FAU Arena. The Owls upset Harvard at home on Jan. 21, so there is no doubt they believe they are capable of taking down the Blue Raiders.
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