A New Look
What: MTSU (9-11, 4-3) vs FAU (15-6, 7-0)
When: Thursday, Jan. 27th @ 7:00 PM EST
Where: FAU Arena
Live Video: None
Internet Broadcast: Here
Live Stats: Owls GameTracker
MTSU Team Site: Here
G James Gallman 7.4 ppg
G Jason Washington 14.2 ppg
G Jimmy Oden 2.4 ppg
F Jason Jones 13.4 ppg
F Trevor Charles 3.9 ppg
G Ray Taylor 11.6 ppg
G Greg Gantt 15.0 ppg
G Pablo Bertone 3.1 ppg
F Kore White 10.0 ppg
F Brett Royster 7.7 ppg
Middle Tennessee leads the all-time series 7-3. Ray Taylor's career high 26 point performance earlier in the month led the Owls past the Blue Raiders 71-61 in Murfreesboro.
MTSU at a Glance
Head Coach Kermit Davis continues to tinker with his starting line-up, and it paid some dividends in Middle Tennessee's recent 59-49 win against Denver last Saturday at Mont Hale Arena. The new look features only one big man in 6'-9" junior JUCO transfer Trevor Charles, who has just six starts after Saturday's affair.
Defense must have been the motivation, as MTSU just about shut the door on three point attempts while holding the Pioneers to just six chances. Pretty impressive considering that Denver hoists up an average of 19.1 per contest, and rattled off a 68.4% performance against ASU the game prior.
They also prompted the Pioneers to cough it up a season high 20 times; which led to a 22-6 advantage in points off turnovers for the Blue Raiders.
"We beat a quality team that is playing really, really good basketball at both ends of the court. We knew it would be a game just like this", said Davis. "Our defense was active, and we disrupted some things for them."
The Blue Raiders have have dropped three spots to rank 5th in scoring amongst league members since the earlier season meeting (-2.3 ppg), but have done the polar opposite in points allowed, moving up three spots to 5th while giving up 2.5 ppg less.
They lead the conference in rebounding margin at +3.6 pg, but are dead last in assists with just 9.9 pg.
FAU at a Glance
By now, it is very clear that Florida Atlantic is embarking upon its best season since moving to the DI level. Unless the bottom falls out, the overall mark of 19-12 established during 2001-02's NCAA appearance should topple as the slate progresses. In the meantime, a victory on Thursday night would tie the program mark of eight consecutive wins set back during 1989-90.
Accordingly, Coach Mike Jarvis Jarvis speaks highly of the squad when looking back at former rosters he has led.
"I would put this in the same category with the high school team with Patrick Ewing, my best GW team, BU, and St. Johns. This team would go into the same company...with the top teams that I've had", said Jarvis of the 2010-11 Owls.
Last time on the hardwood, the Owls boasted 21 assists in a nationally televised 88-71 triumph over UALR; setting a season high for shares against DI foes and matching a performance versus Florida International back on January 30, 2010.
Since his insertion into the lineup as a starter, freshman Pablo Bertone has steadily been increasing his productivity as of late and is the Owls' most proficient threat at the guard spot with a team leading 49.0% FG.
"When he's in the game good things happen", Jarvis said of Bertone's ability. "He's one of those guys that can help teams win."
The Owls might have gotten a decisive victory on the road earlier against the Blue Raiders, but Jarvis is also conscious that the newness of FAU's game plan will be subject to more awareness by the opponent this time around.
"Obviously when you play a team a second time there's probably less things you can use to surprise them and catch them off guard with. You just hope that you get better. No matter they do you can still do what you want to do", said Jarvis.
Guard Greg Gantt is currently 6th in the Belt amongst all scorers, while the Owls are 1st in both blocks (5.5 pg), and assist to turnover ratio (1:2).
The Owls 116 total swats has them tied for 11th amongst all DI teams.
Owl's Nest Prediction
The numbers are trending upward for MTSU.
The Blue Raiders have gotten better since the last meeting when they surrendered a healthy 51.0% from the floor to Florida Atlantic, but showed early signs of a strengthening perimeter defense plan - allowing the Owls just 33.3% from beyond the arc.
Additionally, the previous offensive mark of 34.0% FG has improved over the last three games to that 42.4%; which is worth noting.
But FAU is still the team to beat in this one, and should complete the regular season sweep on Thursday.
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