GAME NOTES: The Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders will try to improve on a two- game win streak as they host the Old Dominion Monarchs in Conference USA action at Murphy Athletic Center.
After winning four consecutive games, Old Dominion has lost two of its last three games - all in conference play. The Monarchs are tied with Middle Tennessee at 4-2 in the Conference USA standings, and just a game back of first place. Old Dominion is coming off a 75-66 loss to UAB Thursday night.
Middle Tennessee had the opposite in terms of success Thursday, as the Blue Raiders defeated East Carolina, 84-67, in a Conference USA tilt in Murfreesboro. Middle Tennessee has won two in a row and three of its last four contests.
The Blue Raiders own the only victory in the series between these new conference rivals. This is the first and only time the two programs will meet on the court during this regular season.
Old Dominion forced 19 UAB turnovers and held its own against one of the best rebounding teams in the nation, but the Monarchs ultimately couldn't make use of all those turnovers gained by dropping the contest to UAB. Dimitri Batten scored 18 points to pace Old Dominion, grabbing seven rebounds in the process. Ambrose Mosley chipped in 16 points of his own. The Monarchs connected on just 34.8 percent of their shots from the floor.
Aaron Bacote tops the Monarchs in scoring this season with a 17 ppg average on 40.9 percent shooting from the floor. Bacote's 66 total assists is the most on the squad this season, along with his 65 turnovers. Batten is second in scoring at 11.9 ppg, and Keenan Palmore is third with 11.2 ppg. Richard Ross is the team leader with a 7.4 rpg average.
Middle Tennessee jumped way out ahead of East Carolina early on and never looked back in Thursday night's victory. The Blue Raiders held a 41-22 halftime advantage, and coasted the rest of the way en route to the 17-point win. Shawn Jones scored 22 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to pace Middle Tennessee, while Tweety Knight added 15 points and Kerry Hammonds tallied 13. The Blue Raiders hit an impressive 52.6 percent of their field-goal attempts in the contest.
Jones is the team leader in scoring this season with 14.1 ppg on 58.4 percent shooting from the floor. His 8.5 rpg mark is a team high, as well as his 36 blocked shots. Neiko Hunter is second in scoring with 12.6 ppg, and Hammonds checks in at third with 12.3 ppg. Knight leads the Raiders with 96 assists on the year. Middle Tennessee is averaging 74.7 ppg through 21 games played this season.
With back-to-back wins and the home crowd advantage on their side, the Blue Raiders should be able to dispose of the Monarchs to pull even closer to the Conference USA lead.
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