Intrastate foes collide in Sun Belt Classic
Nashville, TN (Sports Network) - The second-ranked Memphis Tigers and the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders meet up in Nashville this evening, as they take part in the first game of the Sun Belt Classic.
Memphis is one of 15 teams in Division I that opened this week still undefeated. John Calipari's squad has been idle since a 62-58 overtime win against then nationally-ranked USC on December 4th in the Jimmy V Classic. Other quality wins this season include Oklahoma (63-53) and Connecticut (81-70) to capture the 2K College Hoops Classic in New York City in mid-November.
The Blue Raiders are trying to get back to .500 on the year, but are currently just 3-5. However, the team took a step in the right direction with an 86-80 overtime win against Belmont on Wednesday.
The Tigers have won 11 straight in this series, including last year's 86-46 rout in Memphis. MTU has not posted a win in this series since 1953.
The Tigers are averaging a solid 82.3 ppg this year and although five players are averaging eight points per game or more, only two are currently boasting double digits. It has really been a two-headed scoring monster in the form of Chris Douglas-Roberts and Derrick Rose. One of the premier guards in the country, Douglas-Roberts has certainly lived up to his potential as an All- American candidate, shooting .545 from the floor and pouring in 20.1 ppg. Rose can fill up the basket as well, hitting 48.1 percent of his shots, en route to nearly 16 points per game (15.9). Joey Dorsey (7.0 ppg) and Robert Dozier (8.0 ppg) aren't lighting up any scoreboards, but they have formed quite a pair on the glass, averaging 9.2 and 7.6 rebounds per game, respectively. The Trojans slowed things down and kept the explosive Tigers in check last time out. Memphis shot just .373 from the floor, including 5-of-22 from three-point range (.227), but still found a way to get the win over USC and remain unbeaten on the year. The Tigers scored 20 points less than their season average, with only Dozier (13 pts) and Douglas-Roberts (10 pts) finishing in double figures. Memphis turned the ball over an alarming 22 times in the game, but washed that out by forcing 21 USC miscues.
Middle Tennessee is without the services of one of its leaders in junior guard Calvin O'Neil (10.0 ppg), so the win over Belmont this week was certainly encouraging. Offensively, the team should be able to cope, as four others are averaging double digits. Desmond Yates leads the team with 12.3 ppg. He is followed by Kevin Kanaskie (11.4 ppg), Demetrius Green (10.6 ppg) and Theryn Hudson (10.0 ppg). It is at the defensive end, where the team has had the majority of its troubles. MTU is allowing foes to shoot .509 from the floor, leading to a generous 78.6 ppg. The difference for Middle Tennessee in the win over Belmont this week, was the team's ability to convert free throws. The Blue Raiders were an impressive 26-of-28 from the charity stripe, while Belmont converted just 5-of-9 attempts. Yates came off the bench to lead the team with 20 points, on 7-of-10 shooting. Kanaskie added 16 points in the overtime victory, while Green chipped in with 10 points.
12/15 10:34:58 ET