What: Florida Atlantic (12-6, 4-0) vs Middle Tennessee (7-9, 2-1)
When: Thursday, Jan. 13nd @ 8:00 PM EST
Where: Monte Hale Arena, Murphy Center
Live Video: MTSU Pay Per View
Internet Broadcast: Here
Live Stats: Here
MTSU Team Site: Here
G Ray Taylor 10.3 ppg
G Greg Gantt 15.0 ppg
G Pablo Bertone 2.8 ppg
F Kore White 8.9 ppg
F Brett Royster 7.7 ppg
G James Washington 14.1 ppg
G Jason Jones 12.5 ppg
G Jimmy Oden 2.2 ppg
F J.T. Sulton 9.1 ppg
F Trevor Ottley 9.3 ppg
The Blue Raiders own a 7-2 mark over the Owls. Last season the teams split the Sun Belt series at 1-1, with each team winning on the road. Alex Tucker scored a lay-up with :03 remaining in a 61-60 thriller in Murfreesboro, but MTSU returned the favor with a strong defensive showing in a 66-57 win at FAU Arena.
FAU at a Glance
After a 57-50 win over Manhattan last night, the Owls finish their 2010-11 non-conference slate at 8-6, and are in the midst of a four game winning streak.
But more importantly, they are undefeated in league play heading into a tough two game road trip beginning with the Blue Raiders.
"It's very big. Coach talks about how he wants us to be in the lead, and everybody is chasing us", said Ray Taylor on the team's perfect mark. "Right now we have that number one spot in the Sun Belt (east), so we're just going to keep thriving on that. Being in the lead is a lot more fun than trying to catch somebody else."
The Blue Raiders are typical of most Belt teams, with guard play accounting for the majority of their points. They don't have a prolific scorer, but do a player that has grabbed Coach Jarvis' attention in James Washington.
"I'll tell you one that about that young man, he can really shoot it. We're going to have to defend him, but they also can play pretty good defense. That will be tough", said Jarvis.
After going winless away from Boca Raton in 2008-09, last season's one point victory in Murfreesboro was mile marker in the Owls' development as a young team. It proved they could finish. And with six road games still left to play, the Owls can match the last two seasons' combined mark (5) on Thursday.
Whether it is close or a blow-out, makes no difference to Jarvis.
"The one thing I know about coaching young people is they have to learn how to win. And no matter how you win, win. I don't care 'how' we win", he said.
Getting the Blue Raiders to cough it up can help that cause tomorrow night. Florida Atlantic is 6-2 on the year when earning 13 or more takeaways and produced a season high in steals against Manhattan on Tuesday (9).
FAU currently claims the top spot in the Belt in both blocks (5.7 pg) and turnovers allowed (11.7 pg).
MTSU at a Glance
Having already defeated one of the top teams in the conference in North Texas, Middle Tennessee State hosts the Owls Thursday night looking for their third victory in a row and for a chance to move up in the Sun Belt Conference East divisional standings.
The Blue Raiders are coming of a thrilling 93-91 overtime victory over Louisiana Lafayette last Saturday. Leading by as much as 13-points in the contest, execution became a factor for the squad down the stretch, as six different players fouled out; propelling the game into an extra period.
In the additional time, MTSU hit 9-of-10 free throws and played strong defense to secure the win. Senior guard James Washington poured in a team high 23-points and made all nine of his free throw opportunities including three in overtime.
“For 20 minutes we played as well as we can play. We shot the ball, ran offense, and guarded. Then to begin the second half we must have missed five layups, great shots and they got momentum and just played unbelievable for a 15 to 18 minute period," head coach Kermit Davis said.
Washington, who leads the team in scoring, averaging 14.1 points per game, has been a streaky shooter the past few games, but in the two-point win he managed to hit four shots behind the arc.
Lining up next to Washington in the back court, is redshirt-sophomore guard Jason Jones, a transfer out of UTEP. Jones, the bigger of the two players at 6’6”, has seen his production rise since the Blue Raiders have entered Sun Belt play and is averaging a team-high 14.3 points per game in conference matchups.
Jones was one of the six players to foul out in the Louisiana-Lafayette game, and the event tallied the third time this season he had to leave the game early. Foul trouble has posed problems for numerous players on Davis' roster all-season long, but Saturday was one of the worst showings.
Middle Tennessee State is 4-3 at home this season, and have won their last two at Mont Hale Arena. Their 73.1 ppg is good enough for second best in the Sun Belt, but they are giving up almost as much on the opposite end at 72.6 ppg (8th).
Owl's Nest Prediction
Expect another barn burner on Thursday.
The Owls should have an upper hand in the emotional factor, having lost last time out at FAU Arena. But the Blue Raiders still have the memory a last second defeat on the home court to fuel them as well.
MTSU offers a decent sized line-up and is outproducing opponents +3.8 on the glass, so FAU will likely come out in a deficit there once again.
The keys for Thursday point towards the Owls having a solid game from long range and making free throws. Zone defense has been a problem, and wouldn't be surprised to the the Blue Raiders use it after watching game film against the Jaspers. Afterall, they don't defend the perimeter well to begin with allowing opponents a 39.9% success rate per contest.
But they are a hacking bunch (393 total fouls), and that can't be defended.
Like the Owls in this one if they can hit a few more from long range and shoot 70% from the line.
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