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January 3, 2012

Looking Back at December: So Far, So Good

What a ride it has been so far.

The month of December was a successful month for the Middle Tennessee men's basketball team. The Blue Raiders have their fan base excited and have them looking ahead to a possible NCAA tournament bid. The team even gained some national recognition when they received three votes in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll on December 26.

The men's basketball team has only lost one game a month to start the season and currently holds a record of 13-2 (2-0 SBC). MT has gotten off to one of the fastest starts in school history and will be looking to end the season with one of the best records in school history.

The Blue Raiders started the month of December being one of the hottest offensive teams in the nation, but once Sun Belt play started, MT's offense cooled down a bit. They leave the month of December with the 3rd best field goal percentage in the country - averaging 51% per game. The Blue Raiders offense is packed with players that can beat teams off the dribble or hit an open jumper. They have become a problematic team for anyone to match up against.

Along with the offensive play, MT's defense is one of the best in the nation. Teams playing the Blue Raiders come into the game expecting a bad shooting night and try to take advantage of the few mental mistakes that MT makes on the defensive end. The Blue Raider defense has held fourteen of their fifteen opponents under 50% shooting this season. MT forces opposing offenses to fight for every point they get and teams leave games against the Blue Raiders fatigued from the high intensity battles.

The month of December saw MT in action eight times. The Blue Raiders played five home games and went on the road three times. Throughout the month of December the Murphy Center saw a raise in attendance and this trend appears to be heading into the month of January as well. The Blue Raiders added another successful month of basketball to their record and tournament resume.

The Month in Review:

The first action in December MT saw was on the road against the Tennessee State Tigers. The game between the two teams was a close one, but late in the second half the Blue Raiders were able to pull away and get a 77-62 victory.

The next game the Blue Raiders played was against the well known mid-major Akron Zips. MT handled Akron fairly easily at home with a 77-53 victory. Center LaRon Dendy and forward JT Sulton each posted double-doubles in the game. The Blue Raiders would hit the road after the win at home to take on a struggling program in UAB.

Everyone expected MT to win the game at UAB. The Blue Raiders were in the process of building a tough resume to compete against come March. However, MT would put their first bad loss on their resume when they lost 66-56 to the Blazers on the road. This game may come back to haunt the Blue Raiders if they are on the bubble in March, but in terms of the "here and now," it helped the team come back to reality and realize they need to be at their best each night they play. It worked as since that loss, MT has yet to be defeated again.

After the loss to UAB, MT was looking for someone to take out their frustrations on and UT-Martin just happened to be the team to feel the Blue Raiders wrath. The Skyhawks only led twice, for a few seconds, in the game before MT reclaimed the lead. The Blue Raiders would go on to defeat UT-Martin 78-62.

From there, the not-so-longly awaited rematch between the Blue Raiders and the Belmont Bruins was next on the docket. The Belmont game gave the Blue Raiders a chance at revenge from an early loss in the season and as expected, the game was a mirror image of the first game minus the overtime sessions. MT, however, came away with the 65-62 victory and Kermit Davis' team got that sweet taste of revenge they were out for after beating the Bruins.

MT would head back on the road to face an Ole Miss team from there. Fate has an odd way of toying with people and it toyed with the Blue Raiders. Even with foul trouble and JT Sulton leaving to get an IV, the Rebels couldn't overtake MT. The Blue Raiders would add another quality win to their resume by beating Ole Miss 68-56.

After this impressive start to the season MT would enter Sun Belt Conference play against a dangerous FIU team. The Golden Panthers were looking to add another bad loss to the Blue Raider's resume, but MT wasn't going to let that happen and led FIU for most of the game. MT would start their conference play with a 71-66 win.

The Blue Raiders last game of December was another home conference game against the South Alabama Jaguars. The game was expected to be competitive, but MT showed why they were picked as one of the best team in the Sun Belt conference as they thrashed USA all day and would go on to win 68-52 in their last game of December.

In the month of December MT was 7-1. The Blue Raiders upcoming schedule has one highly anticipated out-of-conference game at Vanderbilt. They have had an impressive start to the season and the Blue Raiders are looking to make a run at the regular season title as well as win the Sun Belt tournament. However, time will tell that story and the Blue Raider fans will have to wait patiently for March to come to see if their name is lined up with the other teams who get to dance.



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