Sports: 3 storylines to watch in MT Athletics this weekend

Photo by David Chamberlain / MTSU Sidelines

With the start of the new semester in the rearview mirror, many of the Blue Raider athletics teams are in the stretch runs of the season.

This weekend provides some of the most intriguing match-ups of the year with the men’s basketball returning home to take on Rice and North Texas in two games that could strengthen the Blue Raiders’ hold on the conference standings. The Lady Raider basketball team will hit the road for the Florida portion of their schedule, as they will play both Florida International and Florida Atlantic. Both tennis teams will play at the Adams Tennis Complex on Friday, and the softball team is opening their season in California this weekend as well.

To prepare you for the weekend ahead, here are three storylines you should keep an eye on for MTSU.

Can Antwain Johnson continue excellent play?

It is no secret that Johnson has stepped up recently for the Blue Raiders, as he has given the team the scoring punch it needed to

Junior Antwain Johnson eyes the hoop as he prepares to take a free throw against the University of Texas-San Antonio on Jan. 25, 2018, in Murfreesboro, Tenn. (David Chamberlain / MTSU Sidelines)

close out its last two opponents.

Against Old Dominion he scored 18 points on 7-12 shooting to lead Middle Tennessee to a 66-59 victory. He also proved he could be a solid passer, as he dished a team-high four assists in the win.

Johnson followed that up with a career night against Charlotte, as he recorded 23 points on an efficient 10-15 shooting from the field. While the game was much closer than it should’ve been, his play neutralized what 49ers guard Jon Davis did for his team and helped secure the win.

If he plays that well this weekend, MTSU will be looking at two more victories in the win column.

How will the Lady Raiders bounce back from the Louisiana Tech game?

Freshman Anna Jones (15) talks to her teammates to get the team rallied against Louisiana Tech on Feb. 1, 2018, in Murfreesboro, Tenn. (David Chamberlain / MTSU Sidelines)

Head coach Rick Insell‘s squad is coming off of a tough home loss to the Louisiana Tech Lady Techsters by a final score of 66-49.

Turnovers continued to be an issue for MTSU, as they turned the ball over 20 times in the loss. In a game that was 36-34 heading into the final quarter of play, Middle surrendered a 14-2 run to start the fourth, and it snowballed from there.

Forward Alex Johnson led the turnover brigade with six miscues on her own, while Anna Jones and Gabby Lyon each turned the ball over three times.

Another key stat was three-point shooting, as the Lady Raiders only made two of their 15 attempts from three-point land. If they are hoping to contend for the Conference USA championship in March, those are two numbers that must improve going forward.

Will the men’s tennis team stay undefeated at home?

The most successful team on campus is the Blue Raider men’s tennis team. Holding a 7-0 overall record, the team is also undefeated at home after their victories over UTSA and TSU on Jan. 28.

Gian Issa, Gonzalo Morell and Tom Moonen have all played integral parts of the team’s success, and they each show no signs of slowing down this season.

With that being said, the team has a chance at a statement win on Friday as they welcome the Indiana Hoosiers to the Adams Tennis Complex at 6 p.m. While they might be a powerhouse in C-USA, a win over a Power 5 program would go a long way in ensuring the team’s success after the current season.

To contact Sports Editor Rusty Ellis, email sports@mtsusidelines.com.

For more sports stories, follow us on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines and on Twitter and Periscope at @Sidelines_Sport.

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