MURFREESBORO – In a rivalry that has been dubbed “100 Miles of Hate,” the Middle Tennessee men’s and women’s basketball teams will take on rival Western Kentucky this weekend.
The series had a one-year hiatus last season as WKU was still a member of the Sun Belt Conference.
Both matchups will be huge given the tight race in the Conference-USA standings.
Rick Insell and the Blue Raiders (18-6, 12-2 C-USA) will face the Lady Toppers (22-4, 11-2 C-USA) for control of first place in the league standings.
The winner of this game will put themselves in good position to win the C-USA regular-season title, and claim the number one seed for next month’s conference tournament.
Both teams are playing great basketball right now, each coming into Saturday’s matchup with four-game winning streaks.
The two schools have not played each other since the 2012-2013 season, where MTSU swept both games from the Lady Toppers en route to an NCAA tournament appearance.
The Blue Raiders are currently on a twelve-game winning streak in the series, while holding a 40-25 overall series record against the Hilltoppers.
Saturday’s game will mark the first time the two teams have played each other as Conference-USA foes.
This game will also see the two best scoring offenses in the conference go to head-to-head. Western Kentucky ranks first in C-USA with 77.1 points per game and Middle Tennessee ranks second, averaging 74.0 points per contest.
Middle Tennessee’s stellar duo of senior Cheyenne Parker and sophomore Olivia Jones will matchup with another formidable tandem in Western Kentucky’s Alexis Govan and Chastity Gooch.
All four players rank in the top six in scoring in the league: Jones (first), Parker (second), Govan (fifth) and Gooch (sixth).
Parker will look to neutralize Gooch down low with her shot-blocking ability, as she is the top shot-blocker in the conference (4.0 blocks per game).
Saturday’s game will not be enough to settle the rivalries recent absence, as Kermit Davis and the men’s squad will take on Western Kentucky the following day at Murphy Center.
While the men’s game may not be a matchup of the two best teams in the conference, it still has a lot of intrigue.
With a win, Middle Tennessee (14-13, 7-7 C-USA) could pull within one-and-a-half games of Western Kentucky (16-9, 9-4 C-USA) for fourth in the conference, improving their seeding for the conference tournament.
These two teams also have not met since the 2012-2013 campaign. Like the women’s unit, the Blue Raider men swept both games against the Hilltoppers that season.
Middle Tennessee has won seven of its last eight contests against WKU.
The Blue Raiders are coming off their most impressive performance of the season after a 90-51 drubbing of Marshall Thursday night. On the other hand, the Hilltoppers have lost three in a row.
MTSU guard Giddy Potts is entering Sunday’s game after a career night for Middle Tennessee.
The freshman guard dropped a career-high 28 points, including eight three-pointers, which tied for the second-most three-pointers made in a game in Blue Raider history.
MTSU will need Potts’ scoring ability to keep them in this one. The Blue Raiders will also need their leading scorer, sophomore Reggie Upshaw, to control the pace of the game on both ends of the court.
Upshaw has scored in double figures in three of the last four games.
The Blue Raiders will have a tough task defensively in trying to stop the conference’s top scorer, T.J. Price.
Price averages 17.7 points per game for the the Hilltoppers, while shooting 41.7 percent from beyond-the-arc.
Sunday’s contest is the Blue Raiders’ Senior Night game. Kermit Davis and the Blue Raiders will honor seniors Jacquez Rozier, Marcus Tarrance and redshirt-junior Gavin Gibson.
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