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Middle Tennessee (19-7) at Charlotte (14-10)



The Sports Network

DATE & TIME: Thursday, February 20, 7 p.m. (ET)

FACTS & STATS: Site: Halton Arena (9,000) -- Charlotte, North Carolina. Television: None. Home Record: MT 13-2, UNCC 9-3. Away Record: MT 5-4, UNCC 2-7. Neutral Record: MT 1-1, UNCC 3-0. Conference Record: MT 9-2, UNCC 5-6. Series Record: Charlotte leads, 1-0.

GAME NOTES: The Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders will try to keep pace in the tightly contested Conference USA race as they trek to Halton Arena to challenge the Charlotte 49ers.

The Blue Raiders powered past Southern Miss for an 81-64 victory in their last outing. The win was the seventh in a row for Middle Tennessee, which is tied for first with Texas-El Paso and Louisiana Tech in the C-USA standings with a 9-2 record. Coach Kermit Davis's team has outscored the opposition by an average of 9.4 ppg in conference play this season. The Blue Raiders came out of the gate on fire against USM as they connected on 9-of-14 attempts from 3- point range and assisted 13 of their 15 made field goal attempts en route to a 47-29 halftime lead. Middle Tennessee has gone 17-2 in the month of February over the last three years, including 12 straight dating back to the 2011-12 season.

The 49ers are on a three-game losing streak after their shocking, 59-56 home loss to the Marshall Thundering Herd on Saturday. Marshall entered the contest with a 1-11 record in true road games and Charlotte had won nine of its first 11 games at Halton Arena. Charlotte was expected to be a contender to win the C-USA after its impressive non-conference performance which included victories over Kansas State and Michigan, but it has been mediocre en route to a 5-6 conference ledger. Coach Alan Major's squad is averaging 1.7 ppg less than its foes in C-USA action.

This will be just the second meeting in history between these schools on the hardwood. Charlotte downed the Blue Raiders by 15 points in the only previous encounter, which took place in Lexington, Kentucky on Dec. 18, 1987.

In Middle Tennessee's win over the Golden Eagles, Kerry Hammonds knocked down six shots from beyond the arc for a game-high 26 points. The Blue Raiders also received a strong contribution from Neiko Hunter, who finished with 20 points and seven rebounds. Tweety Knight tallied eight assists and three of the team's six steals. Shawn Jones, who leads the team with 15 ppg and 8.5 rpg, was held to just seven points before fouling out after just 15 minutes of action. Hunter is MTSU's second option on the offensive end with 13.5 ppg and Hammonds is close behind at 12.9 ppg.

Charlotte went into halftime trailing Marshall by four points and could not overcome the deficit after the break due to a horrendous offensive performance in the second stanza. The 49ers were limited to 27.3 percent efficiency from the floor including a 2-of-17 clip from beyond the arc over the final 20 minutes of the contest. Trailing 59-56 with 19 seconds to play, the 49ers forced a Marshall turnover and had several chances to send the game to overtime, but 3-pointers by Shawn Lester and Pierria Henry in the final moments were both off the mark, allowing the Herd to escape with the victory. Lester finished with 16 points to lead the 49ers. Terrence Williams chipped in with 14 points, Henry dished out 10 assists and Willie Clayton pulled down 16 rebounds in the losing effort. Lester is posting a team-high 13.2 ppg, followed by Henry, who has shown off his versatility with 11.9 ppg, five rpg and 6.2 apg. Clayton is scoring 11.5 ppg and anchors the 49ers on the glass at 9.2 rpg.

Although the 49ers are not playing up to their potential, they are still capable of stopping the Blue Raiders. Charlotte's poor showing versus the Herd was very unusual considering how dominant it has been at home this season. Middle Tennessee's senior class is just one victory away from becoming the winningest class in the program's history. If the Blue Raiders continue to punish their opposition from beyond the arc, they will be very tough to fend off.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Middle Tennessee 72, Charlotte 67

02/20 10:18:26 ET

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