Middle Tennessee’s men’s and women’s basketball teams will both do battle with Rice Thursday. The men will face the Owls in Houston, while the women will host them at Murphy Center. Here’s a preview for both games:
Men’s Game: The Blue Raiders (13-11, 6-5 C-USA) are coming off a 73-62 home loss this past Saturday to La Tech, who is tied for first in the conference. At this point in the season, MTSU is sitting right in the middle of the Conference-USA standings.
While Rice’s overall record is worse, the Owls (7-15, 4-6 C-USA) are only a game back of Middle Tennessee in the conference standings. The Owls will bring some swagger with them to Murfreesboro after coming off of a huge 72-68 win last Saturday over Western Kentucky, who is tied atop the conference standings with La Tech.
Both teams have struggled to score the ball. MTSU ranks 12th in offensive scoring in C-USA (61.9 points per game), and Rice ranks 13th (61.4 points per game).
The Owls may find scoring especially hard to come by as the Blue Raiders are second in C-USA in scoring defense (61.9 points per game).
MTSU will need its defense to step up and defend the three-pointer Thursday. Rice ranks third in C-USA in three-point shooting percentage (36 percent), and they are first in three-pointers made per game (8.86).
It will be important for both teams to avoid foul trouble as both teams rank near the top in C-USA in free-throw percentage. The Owls rank second at 72.7 percent, while the Blue Raiders rank third at 70.6 percent.
Sophomore forward Reggie Upshaw has played well for the Blue Raiders as of late, notching double-digit points in three of his last four games. Upshaw had an impressive night Saturday against La Tech, recording a career-high 21 points.
Senior guard Marcus Tarrance has also added some offensive power for the Blue Raiders lately. The senior has scored in double digits in his last two games, averaging 14.5 points per game over this time period.
Seth Gearhart is the main Owl player to watch. Gearhart is coming off of a career-high 31-point performance against WKU. Gearhart is someone that MTSU will have to look for around the three-point line as he is sixth in C-USA in three-pointers made per game (2.14).
Kermit Davis and the Blue Raiders take on Rice Thursday at Tudor Fieldhouse in Houston. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. CST.
Women’s Game: Middle Tennessee (15-6, 9-2 C-USA) bounced back this past Saturday to pick up a 68-44 win over Louisiana Tech after having its five-game winning streak broken up by Southern Miss.
The Blue Raiders are currently tied atop the C-USA standings with WKU.
Rice (7-14, 2-8 C-USA) is near the bottom of the C-USA standings. The Owls last their last game to WKU by a final score of 83-76.
Even with Rice’s record, MTSU will look to avoid a bad conference loss at a crucial part in the conference schedule where every win matters.
Offense is where the Blue Raiders have excelled at this season. Middle Tennessee is second in C-USA in scoring, averaging 73.3 points per game. This is an area of concern for Rice as the Owls rank tenth in C-USA in scoring, managing only 60.8 points per game.
The Owls may have the slight edge in rebounding come Thursday night. Rice, statistically, is the best rebounding team in C-USA, pulling down 43.7 rebounds per game. MTSU is sixth in C-USA in this category, grabbing 40 rebounds per game.
The main battle on the boards will be between the Blue Raiders’ senior transfer Cheyenne Parker and the Owls’ Christal Porter, who rank first and second in rebounding in C-USA, respectively.
Parker and sophomore Olivia Jones have been the driving force for MTSU all season. The pair are one-two in scoring in C-USA. However, Jones will look to bounce back from an uncharacteristic seven-point effort against La Tech.
Porter will be the Blue Raiders main focus on defense. She is averaging a double-double for the season, scoring 10.3 points and recording 10.8 rebounds per game. Porter picked up her fourth-straight double-double against WKU, tallying 12 points and 11 rebounds.
Middle Tennessee hosts Rice Thursday at Murphy Center. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.
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