Raiders look to remain atop C-USA standings

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 In a battle with potential NCAA tournament implications, first-place Middle Tennessee travels to Norfolk to take on second-place Old Dominion in the Ted Constant Convocation Center for the top spot in Conference USA.

If the Blue Raiders (16-5, 8-1) win, they’ll hold a game-and-a-half lead on the Monarchs (16-4, 7-1), in addition to the current half-game lead and tie-breaker they maintain over WKU after beating the Hilltoppers in Bowling Green two weeks ago.

MT is currently tied for the most true wins in the NCAA, with an 8-1 record on their opponents’ home floors. The Blue Raiders are also unbeaten in eight tries against the Monarchs with a 2-0 record in Norfolk.

The two schools have played seven times since 2014, with MT’s average margin of victory at 10.4 points per game. This year’s Monarchs, however, are a force to be reckoned with.

Old Dominion is the only team in Conference USA that holds opponents to fewer points (62.9 points per game) than Middle Tennessee (64.9 points). ODU also leads C-USA in scoring margin, with an average margin of victory of 11.2 points per game.

Middle Tennessee head coach Kermit Davis welcomes this challenge, though.

“It’s kind of like playing against yourself, in a lot of ways we’re playing yet another physical team,” said Davis. “We don’t ever try to play anything down, it’s a really big game for us.”

The Blue Raiders are hopeful for key contributions from senior center Brandon Walters, who has stepped up in a big way of late. In his last six games, Walters is averaging 12 points and seven rebounds on 75 percent shooting from the field and 83 percent from the free throw line.

In the Blue Raider’s game against UTEP last Saturday, Walters posted his first career double-double (17 points, 12 rebounds) and Davis was beyond pleased with his progress this season.

“I think Brandon is playing some of the best basketball of his career, it’s going to be a test (for Brandon) again to get a double-figure rebounding game against some of the most physical guys in our league,” Davis added.

Walters and C-USA Player of the Year candidate Nick King are a part of perhaps the most dominant frontcourt in the conference. In the Blue Raiders last conference road game at WKU, King led the Blue Raiders the whole way, logging 28 points, nine rebounds and three assists.

Tip-off between the Blue Raiders and the Monarchs in the Ted Covenant Convocation Center is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. The game will be broadcast on the Blue Raider Network on 94.9 FM and will also be streamed on Facebook via Stadium.

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