GAME NOTES: The Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders will try to stay hot when they take on the Tulane Green Wave in a Conference USA clash at the Murphy Center on Thursday night.
Middle Tennessee has enjoyed its first season in Conference USA, posting a 7-2 mark in league play thanks to its current five-game win streak. The Blue Raiders are also an impressive 17-7 overall, which includes an 11-2 mark at home. However, they play four of their final six games on the road.
Tulane has won back-to-back tilts entering this contest, although the two decisions against Charlotte (64-63) and Marshall (68-65) came by a combined four points. The Green Wave are 13-11 overall, with a more mediocre success rate against the rest of the conference (5-4). They visit UAB next before playing four of their final five games at home.
This is the only scheduled meeting between these two teams this season, and also the first matchup between them in history.
Jay Hook nailed a 3-pointer with two seconds to play to propel Tulane past Marshall. The Green Wave connected on 45.8 percent of their shots from the field, including 8-of-16 from beyond the arc, and were paced by a 17-point effort from Jonathan Stark.
On the year, Tulane has not been much of an offensive power, as the team ranks dead last in the league in assists (8.6 apg), while sitting among the bottom three teams in both scoring (65.5 ppg) and field goal percentage (.418). Missing so many shots has hurt even more considering they are the worst rebounding team in the league as well (32.1 rpg). Louis Dabney (16.8 ppg) leads a trio of players scoring in double figures, but the team lacks depth from there, with no other contributor putting in more than six ppg. Stark (14.7 pg, 4.2 apg) and Hook (14.3 ppg) are the other reliable scoring options.
Middle Tennessee also won in dramatic fashion its last time out. The Blue Raids earned a 70-68 victory over FIU thanks to a layup from Jaqawn Raymond with 30 seconds to play. The basket accounted for Raymond's only points of the game, as Neiko Hunter (25 points) and Shawn Jones (23) really carried the load.
Although they are not lighting the world on fire, the Blue Raiders are a more sound offensive unit than Tulane. They are netting 73.8 ppg on the third-best field goal percentage in the conference (.461). Middle Tennessee also plays well at the defensive end, limiting foes to 66 ppg on 41.5 percent shooting. Jones (15.2 ppg, 8.5 rpg is the leading scorer on the roster, as well as the top contributor on the glass. He has been heating up recently with four straight games of at least 20 points. Hunter (13.2 ppg) and Kerry Hammonds (12.1 ppg) lend support.
Combining a more consistent offensive approach with their successful track record at home, the Blue Raiders should be able to take down Tulane and keep pace near the top of the Sun Belt standings.
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