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December 14, 2013

Preview: MT at Ole Miss

PREVIEW: MIDDLE TENNESSEE AT OLE MISS:

This Saturday, the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (7-2) travel to Mississippi to take on the Ole Miss Rebels (6-2) in what should be one of the toughest games that MT will have the rest of the season. The Blue Raiders will be looking to make it three in a row against the Rebels, in what has been a good series between the two teams.

For MT, getting back to game action is a much needed thing, as all the talk around the program right now has been surrounding the dismissal of freshman guard Eric Wortham Jr. following their last outing. Wortham's departure was the second of the season, following guard Ronald Ross, who left the team shortly after the season started.

The Blue Raiders will move forward Neiko Hunter to the three-spot in hopes of softening the blow, but head coach Kermit Davis will undoubtedly be working with a different style, lineup wise.

Despite the distractions, MT enters the game coming off of a dismantling of Fisk University, where they coasted to an easy 115-65 victory. The Blue Raiders shot a remarkable 62 percent from the field and were led by senior Shawn Jones, who posted 18 points, four rebounds, three assists and one block.

As for Ole Miss, they are coming off of a tough loss at the hands of the Oregon Ducks in what was one high scoring affair.

The Rebels were led by guard Marshall Henderson, who posted an impressive 39 points, but it was not enough as the Ducks pulled out the win, 115-105.

After winning their first six games to start the year, the Rebels have dropped back-to-back contests.

This will be the first time MT has traveled to Oxford since 1977, when MT defeated the Rebels, 61-53.

THE GAME BREAKDOWN:

Offense:

In their last three games, the Blue Raiders have averaged 79 points per game, but that number is slightly elevated due to their last game where they put up 115. If not for that game, the number would be more around the 65 points per game mark. When it comes to shooting, MT has hit just 46 percent of their shots from the field, 24 percent from the 3-point line and 68 percent from the free throw line in their last three games.

The Blue Raiders will need to have another strong shooting night like they did against Fisk to stay in this one.

On the flip side, Ole Miss has put up an average of 81 points per game in their last three contests, which is also slightly elevated thanks to their 105-point effort against the Ducks. The Rebels have shown they can put up points already this season, though, having scored 111 in an earlier contest. During this last three game span, Ole Miss has shot 43 percent from the field, 35 percent from behind the arc and 60 percent from the charity stripe.

The Rebels might not have the best shooting percentages, but they sure do put up enough shots to make up for that.

Defense:

The Blue Raider defense will have their hands full on Saturday, but they have been up for the challenge in their last three games, having allowed 63 points per in those contests. After a shaky start to the season, MT has been pretty dominant on defense of late. During this three game stretch, MT has held their opponents to just 32 percent from the field and 27 percent from downtown while sending the opposition to the foul line an average of 31 times a game.

In addition to playing some pretty strong defense, the Blue Raiders have been feasting on the boards here of late, averaging 45 rebounds a game in their last three. MT will need to keep that up on Saturday to keep the Rebels from getting second-chance points.

Speaking of the Rebels, they have given up a large amount of points in their last three games. During that stretch, opposing teams have put up 84 points per game. Not only are the Rebels giving up points, but they are allowing the opposition to get those points in a very efficient way with shooting averages of 48 percent from the field and 42 percent from the 3-point line while also sending teams to the foul line an average of 29 times per game.

Middle Tennessee should have no problem putting points up against the Ole Miss, but the question will be can MT put up enough points to hang with the Rebels over the long haul of the contest.

THE PREDICTION:

This has the makings of what should be a high scoring game on Saturday. The Blue Raiders do not average a ton of points, but they are going up against a defense that allows a lot of points.

On the other side of the ball, the Blue Raider defense is not accustomed to giving up a ton of points, but the Rebels have proven time after time that they can put up a lot of points, but they can have off nights too, as the Blue Raiders proved last year.

In the end, though, look for Marshall Henderson and the Rebels to give the Blue Raiders all they can handle throughout the course of the game. I think home court will play a vital role as Ole Miss finally turns the tide on the Blue Raiders as they pull off the victory for the first time in the last three contests. Expect a close game throughout, though.

Final Score: MT 75, Ole Miss 80



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