Blue Raiders look to extend winning streak against UCLA

Tipoff slated for 10 p.m. CT on Fox Sports Prime Ticket

November 14, 2011 · Athletic Communications
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - The Blue Raider men's basketball team looks to continue its winning streak when it takes on UCLA on Tuesday at the L.A. Sports Arena. Tipoff is slated for 10 p.m. CT and the game will air on Fox Sports Prime Ticket with Joel Meyers, Don MacLean and Courtney Jones on the call.

Fans can follow the Blue Raiders throughout their stay in California via GoBlueRaiders.tv. Click here for interviews, highlights and a behind the scenes look on the road with the team.

Time: 10:00 p.m. CT
Location: Los Angeles
Facility: L.A. Sports Arena

TV: Fox Sports Prime Ticket (Comcast 704, AT&T U-Verse 1774, Dish 408, DirecTV 694)
Play-by-Play: Joel Meyers
Analysis: Don MacLean
Sidelines: Courtney Jones

Men's Basketball vs. UCLA
Radio: WGNS 1450/WNSR 560/WMOT FM 89.5
Play-by-Play: Chip Walters
Live Audio: Available here
Live Stats: Available here

Overall: First meeting
MT vs. Pac-12: 1-2 (Includes a 1-1 record against new member Colorado and 0-1 record against Oregon State)
Noteworthy: Although MT and UCLA have never played, Bruin faithful might be familiar with Blue Raider assistant coach Monte Towe. Towe was the point guard for the 1974 NC State national championship team, a team that defeated UCLA in the Final Four, ending the Bruins’ shot at an eighth consecutive national title.

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Scouting the Blue Raiders
The Blue Raiders are off to a 2-0 start for the first time since 2008-09 after picking up a 58-51 victory over Loyola Marymount on Sunday. Marcos Knight led the way with a game-high 15 points, while JT Sulton added a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds.

Scouting the Bruins
UCLA (0-1) opened the 2011-12 season with a 69-58 loss to Loyola Marymount last Friday. David Wear and Reeves Nelson tallied 13 points apiece, while Travis Wear chipped in 11.

The Bruins were picked to finish atop the Pac-12 this season after last year’s 23-11 (13-5 Pac-10) finish, according to the leagu’es preseason poll. UCLA’s roster features four McDonald’s All-Americans, including senior guard Larry Drew II, sophomore forwards Travis and David Wear and freshman center Joshua Smith. Smith and Nelson were each selected to the John R. Wooden Award preseason top 50 list. Nelson led UCLA last season with 13.9 points and 9.1 rebounds per game. Both Nelson (first team) and Smith (all-freshman team) earned all-conference accolades last year.

More on MT
Starting It Off Right
The Blue Raiders’ 2-0 start is the best since the 2008-09 season and also marks the first time since 1996 MT has defeated Division I opponents in its first two games of the season. In 2001, MT began the season 3-0, but its first opponent was NAIA member Bryan College. It is also just the second time since 2000 the team has opened with at least a 2-0 record.

A 3-0 start would be the best for the Blue Raiders since 2001-02 and only second time since 1995 the team would have accomplished the feat. It would also mark the first time in program history MT has defeated three Division I opponents to start the season.

Sulton Reigns
Junior forward JT Sulton became the first Blue Raider to record a double-double this season, collecting 12 points and 11 rebound at Loyola Marymount. It marked the third double-double of his career, with his last coming against UALR (21 pts, 11 reb) in the 2011 Sun Belt tournament.

Painting the Town Blue
In MT’s first two games, the Blue Raiders have dominated their opponent in the paint. Against Austin Peay, MT held a 38-16 advantage, while owning a 24-18 edge at Loyola Marymout. Altogether the Blue Raiders own a 62-34 advantage in the paint.

Half is Twice as Nice
MT’s second-half performance against Austin Peay will go down as one of the best in program history. The Blue Raiders shot 70 percent from the field, and have, on record, only bettered that mark three times in program history. Ironically, the most recent occurrence was also against the Governors.
.833 vs. Akron (2/4/82)
.800 vs. Tennessee Tech (1/8/81)
.724 vs. Austin Peay (1/12/87)

Dendy is Dandy
After sitting out last season due to NCAA transfer rules, LaRon Dendy made an immediate impact for the Blue Raiders in his first collegiate game since leaving Iowa State. He netted 21 points in the season-opener against Austin Peay and was one rebound shy of a double-double, collecting nine boards.

Exhibition Tidbits
Six Blue Raiders made their debut on Monday against North Alabama, including three who started the contest. Junior transfers Marcos Knight and Bruce Massey each got the start, along with senior forward LaRon Dendy, who scored a game-high 21 points highlighted by an 11-for-13 performance from the stripe. Knight had contributions across the board, with four points, five rebounds, three assists, two blocks and a steal, while Massey dished out four assists to go along with three points.

True freshman Jacquez Rozier put on a show as well, netting 17 points on 7-of-9 shooting and blocking two shots. Raymond Cintron, another juco transfer, demonstrated his long-range skills with a trio of 3-pointers and handed out a game-high five assists. True freshman Julian Edmonson rounded out the newcomers with a triple in the contest.

Blue Raiders Picked Second
MT was picked to finish second in the Sun Belt East Division by the league’s head coaches in the preseason poll. The Blue Raiders received the fourth-most points overall (59) and one first-place vote.

2011-12 Sun Belt Preseason Poll
1. Arkansas State (8) - 64 pts
2. Louisiana-Lafyaette (2) - 60 pts
3. North Texas (1) - 50 pts
4. Denver (1) - 40 pts
5. UALR - 26 pts
6. Louisiana-Monroe - 12 pts

1. Florida Atlantic (11) - 71 pts
2. Middle Tennessee (1) - 59 pts
3. WKU - 41 pts
4. South Alabama - 33 pts
5. FIU - 31 pts
6. Troy - 17 pts

Jason Jones Named to Preseason All-Sun Belt Team
Junior guard Jason Jones was named to the 2011-12 Preseason All-Sun Belt Team, as voted on by the league’s head coaches. Jones was the team’s second-leading scorer last year with 13.1 points per game, while his 14.6 points per game in Sun Belt contests ranked eighth in the league and third among the SBC’s returning players this season. In addition to registering 25 double-digit performances, the Memphis, Tenn., native was the team’s top scorer in 12 games last season and the top rebounder in 10 last year.

2011-12 SBC Men’s Basketball Preseason All-Conference
First Team
Martavius Adams, Arkansas State, Sr., F
Raymond Taylor, Florida Atlantic, Jr., G
Greg Gantt, Florida Atlantic, Jr., G
J.J. Thomas, Louisiana-Lafayette, So., F
*Augustine Rubit, South Alabama, So., F

Second Team
Chase Hallam, Denver, Jr., G
DeJuan Wright, FIU, Sr., G
Jason Jones, Middle Tennessee, Jr., F/G
Tony Mitchell, North Texas, Fr., F
Will Weathers, Troy, Jr., G

Third Team
Trey Finn, Arkansas State, Jr., G
Brian Stafford, Denver, Sr., G
Fred Brown, Louisiana-Monroe, Sr., G
Kedrick Hogans, North Texas, Sr., F
D’Andre Williams, UALR, Sr., G

* - Denotes Preseason Player of the Year

More Than Half of Offense Returns
The Blue Raiders return 57.4 percent of the offense this season. Junior guard Jason Jones was the team’s second-leading scorer last year with 13.1 ppg and accounted for nearly 20 percent of the scoring last season.

Best in the Belt
MT has been one of the most successful teams in the Sun Belt under Davis. The Blue Raiders lead the Sun Belt, along with Florida Atlantic, with 23 league wins over the past two seasons, finishing 10-6 last year and 13-5 in 2009-10. MT is the only team with double-digit conference victories in each of the past four years, earning 10 victories in 2008-09 and 11 in 2007-08. MT has been dominant on the road as well, collecting 40 conference road wins during Davis’ tenure, making the Blue Raiders the winningest Sun Belt road team over the past nine years.

Davis Nearing Record
Head coach Kermit Davis is on track to become the winningest coach in MT history. Davis is just 9 wins shy of matching former coach Jimmy Earle’s 164 all-time coaching victories. He is also one season away from matching Earle, who spent a decade guiding the Blue Raiders, as the longest tenured coaches in program history.

Atop the Toppers
Middle Tennessee has won four in a row against Western Kentucky dating back to the 2009-10 season. It marks the first such run against its rival in 81 years.

Oh Canada
The Blue Raiders spent a week in Canada in August to gear up for the 2011-12 campaign. MT won all four games in Calgary, Alberta. LaRon Dendy nearly averaged a double-double (14.5 ppg, 9.8 rpg) to lead the Blue Raiders. In the second contest against Alberta, Raymon Cintron knocked down seven 3-pointers, while Knight notched 22 points in the first game against Alberta.

Follow the Blue Raiders on Twitter @MTAthletics for continued updates.