GAME NOTES: The Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders try to get back in the win column Saturday when they host the lowly Rice Owls in Conferece-USA action at the Murphy Center.
The Blue Raiders' nine-game winning streak came to a crashing halt Thursday when they shot just 35.4 percent in a 55-39 loss to Louisiana Tech. The ugly setback dropped Middle Tennessee to 11-3 in league play, now in a three-way tie atop the conference standings entering the weekend, with Southern Miss and Louisiana Tech.
There were no double-digit scorers in the season-low output for the Blue Raiders, though Neiko Hunter, Shawn Jones and Reggie Upshaw all netted eight points.
Jones (14.5 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 2.0 bpg), was held to six points, but he managed to tally eight rebounds and five blocks to make an impact. Hunter is MTSU's second option on the offensive end with 13.2 ppg and Kerry Hammonds is close behind at 12.4 ppg.
Rice is looking to bounce back after another loss on Thursday, this time a last-second heartbreaker to UAB as Chad Frazier made a layup with two seconds left in regulation, sending the Owls to a 61-60 loss.
Sean Obi tallied 12 points and seven rebounds. Austin Ramljak and Seth Gearhart scored 11 points apiece, as Rice suffered its fifth consecutive defeat.
The Owls sit at the bottom of Conference USA at a mere 2-12, in part because they average just 63.0 ppg and are getting outrebounded by nearly five boards per contest. Obi is contributing 11.7 ppg and a C-USA best 9.7 rpg, while Ramljak is also netting 11.7 ppg while shooting less than 40 percent from the field on the season.
Middle Tennessee has won two of the three all-time meetings between the programs, though they have not met since 2004.
The Blue Raiders need to keep pace in a very tight race for the conference title, and a slip-up against the cellar-dwelling Owls doesn't seem likely.
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