Middle Tennessee now holds sole possession of first place in Conference USA after a 69-57 defeat of Marshall Thursday night. The Blue Raiders are now looking to remain the league’s only unbeaten as they host rival WKU Saturday.
WKU stands as the fourth-most commonly faced opponent in Blue Raider history with the two meeting for the 133rd time in the history of the programs. The Hilltoppers hold a 93-39 advantage all-time but it’s MT who has the edge of late, winning nine of the last 11 and two of three as Conference USA foes.
“I think this is probably the biggest fan interest game that we have and we’ve had quite a few on our schedule this year,” head coach Kermit Davis said. “This game means an awful lot to both schools.
“We always have big games with Western and it always means a lot in the league race. I see a really talented Hilltopper team that has a lot of fifth-year, experienced guys and we’re going to have to play really well.”
Middle Tennessee (14-3, 4-0) will look to run its winning streak to five games in the contest behind a stingy defense that held Marshall under 60 points on Thursday and has locked down UAB and Vanderbilt to under 50 this season. The Raiders average 7.2 steals per contest and have forced 14.2 turnovers per outing.
Offensively, MT is led by JaCorey Williams (17.4), Giddy Potts (15.9) and Reggie Upshaw (14.9) but has seen the emergence of Brandon Walters and Tyrik Dixon as fourth and fifth scoring options as the two are averaging 8.3 and 6.7 points, respectively, over the last three games.
WKU (9-9, 3-2) is coming off of a road loss at UAB but has notched a pair of road wins in league play already this season at Florida Atlantic and FIU.
The Hilltoppers are led by graduate transfer Que Johnson’s 14.7 points per contest. Justin Johnson (12.9) and Pancake Thomas (12.6) are also scoring in double figures on the year for WKU.
“I think they’re playing a lot better now after going on the road a lot early,” Davis added. “They’re 3-2 in the league and have had two road wins already so they’re right in the middle of this race.”
The long-time rivals are set to tip at 5:00 p.m. at Murphy Center. The contest will be broadcast by American Sports Network.