December 8, 2012
Preview: MT vs Ole Miss
This Saturday the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (6-2, 1-0) will play their second Southeastern Conference opponent of the season when they host one of the best teams they will play all season in the Ole Miss Rebels (6-0). The Blue Raiders will be looking to stay undefeated at home, while the Rebels will look to stay undefeated, period.
MT returned home this past Thursday as they went up against future Conference USA mate UAB. Going into the game the Blue Raiders were favored by 10 against the Blazers, and unfortunately for UAB, the game was an even bigger blowout than expected.
The Blazers kept the game close until midway through the first half when the Blue Raiders took over. A 9-2 run propelled MT to a 43-29 lead at halftime. The second half wouldn't get any better for UAB, as just three minutes in, the Blue Raiders would put the game out of reach after a Neiko Hunter jumper extended the lead to 51-33. Middle Tennessee would go on to defeat the Blazers easily, winning 84-64.
Ole Miss last played on December 1st in the SEC/Big East Challenge when they hosted their sixth straight opponent, Rutgers. The game would prove to be the first scare of the season for the Rebels as the Scarlet Knights would give them all they could handle, leading 36-32 at halftime.
The game would go back and forth in the second half until, with the game tied at 55, Ole Miss caught fire. In the final seven minutes of the game, the Rebels went on a 14-2 run that gave them a comfortable lead. Ole Miss would go on to win, 80-67.
On the season, the Blue Raiders are 3-0 at home while this Saturday's game will be the Rebels first away game of the year. The all-time series between these two programs is notched at three games apiece, with MT taking each of the last three contests.
Offensively, Middle Tennessee has improved here of late in just about every aspect. In their last two games, MT has averaged 80.5 points per game while shooting 48.5 percent from the field, and are coming off a game where they shot 51 percent.
The team has also improved in three point shooting, hitting 34.5 percent from behind the arc. The one area that all Blue Raider fans will be happy to see is the improvement of the team's free throw percentage. In the last two games, the team has hit on 77 percent of their shots from the charity stripe, while on the season they have hit 68 percent.
The Blue Raiders have kind of cooled off of late on the defensive side of the court as they have allowed an average of 73 points per game in the last two, while allowing the opposition to shoot 45 percent from the field. They did take a step back in the right direction in their previous game against the Blazers as they held UAB to just 37 percent shooting from the field, countering what has been UAB's strong point all season.
Middle Tennessee has done a good job in the turnover department as of late, averaging 10.5 steals per game in their last two contests. However, MT still needs to improve on rebounds as they only grabbed 30 boards against Akron and UAB. The team will need more big rebounding performances from Shawn Jones.
Offensively for the Rebels, they really couldn't get have done much better in their last few performances. In their last two games, Ole Miss has averaged 85.5 points per game, and on the season they are ranked second in the nation, averaging 87 per game. They are a very balanced shooting team as they can hit it from any spot on the floor. From the field, they have averaged 44 percent in the last two games but have only hit 27.5 percent of their three balls.
For as good as they shoot from inside the arc, Ole Miss has struggled from the free throw line in their last two games, having only converted 57 percent from the stripe, but have attempted an average of 36 free throws in those games. This is a very dangerous offense that can threaten you anywhere on the floor and the Blue Raiders might have a hard time slowing them down.
When it comes to their defense, the Rebels might be just as dangerous. In their last two games they have allowed only 56 points per game and have only allowed two teams to score over 60 points in three games this year. In those same games they have held their opponents to just 33 percent from the field. All of this could be due to their in your face style of defense, which has helped them average six blocks, 39 rebounds and 13 steals per game. Not only will Middle Tennessee have to figure out a way to stop them from scoring, but they will also have to figure out a way to score to even have a chance in this game.
The keys to the game this Saturday should be fairly obvious for the Blue Raiders, as they will take on possibly one of the most dangerous teams that they will face all season. They will have to figure out a way to minimize the Rebels scoring. Look for MT to do this by slowing down the pace of the game and using up the shot clock. Any way you look at it, the Blue Raiders will need to figure out how to keep the Rebels from scoring at will.
On offense, the Blue Raiders will have to find out a way to get it started early, so they don't fall behind and have to try to dig their way out of a big hole. Middle Tennessee will need to find the hot hand early and ride it before it fizzles out. The team will also need to rebound better, if they are able to do this it will give them more opportunities on offense and also slow down the Rebels offense.
Ole Miss is a very physical team, so a key matchup will be between the big's on each squad. Torin Walker, JT Sulton and Shawn Jones will all have to pull their weight in the paint for MT.
G Raymond Cintron - Cintron is coming off a 13 point, three steal game against UAB. In his last two games, Cintron has found his groove, averaging 17.5 points per game while shooting 51.5 percent from the field and 59 percent from beyond the arc. The Blue Raiders will need this type of performance from Cintron as he is one of their best shooters and can give them the spark they need at times. Cintron has had success against Ole Miss as well. Just last season, the "Puerto Rican Assassin" posted a game-high 18 points against the Rebels highlighted by a 4-for-7 performance from three point land. Cintron also tallied three rebound, three assists and three steals in that game.
F Murphy Holloway - Coming off a dominating performance against Rutgers where Holloway scored 17 points and grabbed15 boards to go along with four assists and three steals. Holloway is one of the most complete players in the nation as he averages 16 points, 10 rebounds, two assists and two steals a night. Holloway is one of the players the Blue Raiders will have to keep an eye on, but they cannot lose focus on his teammates as Ole Miss has a host of others that can be as equally as dangerous with five players almost averaging double digits in points. Holloway was held in check by the Blue Raiders last year, but that was largely due former Blue Raider LaRon Dendy, who smothered Holloway in the lane, holding the talented big man to just six points. Look for Holloway to come into this game with something to prove against MT.
PREDICTION: MT 68,
OLE MISS 80
Looking at this game on paper the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders look overmatched going against an undefeated Ole Miss squad, and it will show on Saturday in a few areas.
It will interesting to see how the Rebels play away from home, though, as it will be their first road game on the season, and it will be against a team that plays their best at home.
However, I still don't believe it will play too much of a roll as Ole Miss will control the game and hand the Blue Raiders their second loss to an SEC team this year and their first loss at home.
In the end, it looks like the post may be where this game is won for the Rebels. Murphy Holloway will put up some great numbers against a Blue Raider frontcourt that is still searching for its identity.
Expect MT to play it close throughout the game, but down the stretch Ole Miss might just pull away.
...More... To continue reading this article you must be a member. Sign Up Now for a FREE Trial