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December 28, 2013

Preview: MT vs Maine

PREVIEW: MIDDLE TENNESSEE VS MAINE:

The Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (8-4) will be back in action on Sunday as they take on the Maine Black Bears (1-9) in the Dr. Pepper Classic. The Blue Raiders enter the game having won just two of their last five games, while the Black Bears have not won a game since November 10.

The Blue Raiders last took to the hardwood this past Saturday against Cincinnati in what many predicted would be a tough, competitive game. The first half played out that way, as both teams struggled to put up points and find a rhythm. At the half, the two teams were knotted up at 21-21.

The second half, however, was a totally different story, as the Blue Raiders would continue to struggle while the Bearcats pulled away down the stretch, winning 69-48.

Kerry Hammonds led the way for MT, scoring 17 points and adding two rebounds on 5-of-8 shooting from downtown.

As for Maine, they also last played this past Saturday in a matchup with Providence. Providence would jump out to an early lead and really put the game to bed before the break, entering halftime up 56-33. The second half would prove to be more competitive, but it was too little, too late for the Black Bears as Providence would go on to win, 94-70.

This will be the first contest between these two programs. It will also be MT's first neutral site game of the season. Tipoff is slated for 3:30 p.m. CT.

THE GAME BREAKDOWN:

Offense:

In their last three games, the Blue Raider offense has been hot and cold. In one game, they scored 102 points, while in another they were only able to muster 48 points. Altogether, the offense has averaged 71 points while shooting 39 percent from the field, 32 percent from the 3-point line and 67 percent from the free throw line while also averaging 17 offensive rebounds per game.

The Blue Raiders will need to improve their shooting from both the field and the free throw line if they are going to get back to their winning ways.

For Maine, their offense has not done enough this season to win them many games, but they have put up some decent numbers in their last three outings. Over that stretch, the Black Bears are averaging 73 points per game while shooting 48 percent from the field, 40 percent from behind the arc and 70 percent from the charity stripe while averaging just six offensive boards per game.

Just looking at Maine's stats, you would expect they would have a better record. The Black Bears are led by Xavier Pollard, who averages 16.7 points and 5.1 rebounds per game. On the season, Maine has four players who average double figures in scoring.

Defense:

As for the defensive side of the ball, the Blue Raiders have given up an average of 64 points per game in their last three outings, and have allowed the opposing team to shoot 43 percent from the field and 35 percent from the 3-point line.

The Blue Raiders have done a good job at dominating the boards on both sides of the floor, but from the defensive end, they have averaged 25 rebounds per game during this stretch.

When you look at the defensive side of the ball for the Black Bears, you start to understand why they have won just one game this year. In their last three outings alone, Maine has allowed the opposition to score an average of 93 points per game letting them shoot 49 percent from the field and 47 percent from behind the arc. To make matters worse, Maine is allowing their opponents to pull down 22 defensive rebounds per game.

THE PREDICTION:

Purely on paper, the contest between Middle Tennessee and Maine looks to lean heavily towards the Blue Raiders as they are just more sound on both sides of the court.

I look for the Blue Raider offense to have one of their better games while the defense will be able to shut down a Black Bear offense that can be predictable at times.

Look for the Black Bears to keep it close in the early goings, but expect the Blue Raiders to run away with it down the stretch, winning easily by 15+ points.

Final Score: MT 85, Maine 65



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