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Raiders set to take flight against Ospreys

MT hosts North Florida Wednesday

November 12, 2013 · @MTAthletics

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - The Middle Tennessee men's basketball team continues its four-game homestand to open the 2013-14 season, hosting North Florida Wednesday at 7 p.m. inside the Murphy Center.

GAME INFORMATION

Date: Sunday, Nov. 13
Time: 7 p.m. CT
Teams: North Florida at Middle Tennessee
Location: Murfreesboro, Tenn.
Arena: Murphy Center (11,520)
Tickets: Click here or call 1-888-YES-MTSU
Webstream: GoBlueRaiders.com
Radio: WGNS (FM 100.5, FM 101.9, AM 1450) / WMOT (89.5 FM) / The Game (102.5 FM, 97.5 FM)
Play-by-Play: Chip Walters
Color Analyst: Kyle Turnham
Live Video | Live Audio | Live Stats

VIDEO
Men's Basketball vs. North Florida
BLUE RAIDER BULLETS

• The Blue Raiders tipped off regular season play, Sunday afternoon picking up a 78-75 victory over 2013 NCAA Tournament participant Southern University. Neiko Hunter led MT with a career-best 20 points and six rebounds, going 6-for-11 from the floor and 3-for-4 from behind the arc. For his efforts, the senior was named Player of the Week by the Tennessee Sportswriters Association Nov. 12.

• MT had five players score in double-figures against the Jaguars Sunday as Hunter had 20, followed by Kerry Hammonds with 19, Marcus Tarrance with 13, Tweety Knight with 12 and Shawn Jones with 10.

PHOTOS
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• The Blue Raiders look to extend their regular season home winning streak to 30 games Wednesday night, taking on North Florida. UNF is 1-1 on the season, picking up a 72-70 win at UALR Monday night.

• Middle Tennessee opened the 2013-14 season, hosting Truman State Nov. 4 for an exhibition. The Blue Raiders walked away with a 78-66 victory as Hunter posted a double-double with 15 points and 15 rebounds. Jones paced the team with 17 points, while Tarrance tallied 14 points.

• The Blue Raiders open the 2013-14 campaign with a four-game homestand, welcoming Southern, North Florida, Akron and UALR to the Murphy Center. MT then hits the road for the first time Nov. 21, traveling to the Sunshine State to take on Florida. The upcoming season should be exciting and challenging for the Blue Raiders as they face three NCAA Tournament teams in their first five games in Southern, Akron and Florida.

• The Blue Raiders have won conference titles three out of the last four seasons in the Sun Belt Conference and look for similar success moving to Conference USA. MT reached the NIT quarterfinals in 2011-12 and followed that with an NCAA First Four appearance in 2012-13.

• MT set school records in overall wins and conference wins last season, going 28-6 and 19-1, respectively. The 2012-13 campaign marked the ninth winning season for the Blue Raiders under head coach Kermit Davis and fifth in the last six years. Over the last two years, MT boasts a 55-13 combined record for a winning percentage of .808.

• Despite losing six seniors who were an integral part of ending MT's 23-year NCAA Tournament drought, Middle Tennessee returns eight players from last season's squad, including starters Kerry Hammonds II and Shawn Jones. MT reached the Big Dance last year for the first time since 1989 and the seventh time in program history.

• MT was one of three teams in the country last season to finish 16-0 or better at home. The Blue Raiders are currently enjoying the second-longest regular season home winning streak in the nation at 29 games. They will put that streak on the line once again Wednesday evening, hosting North Florida at 7 p.m.

• Of the eight returners from last season's team, there are six seniors suiting up this year in Hammonds, Jones, Hunter, Knight, Zane Gibson and Torin Walker. This crew knows what it means to be a leader and has big shoes to fill. Last year's senior class was the winningest class in program history, posting a 90-43 record. This season's seniors have the chance to surpass that mark. This year's group currently has 71 wins, recording back-to-back 25-plus win seasons.

• The newcomers consist of four freshman, one sophomore and three juniors. This year's recruiting class is heavy in the backcourt with six guards, compared to two forwards. However, Jaqawn Raymond isn't too new to Blue Raider basketball as he's already been on campus for year, after transferring from NC State and sitting out the 2012-13 season due to NCAA transfer rules.

OSPREY OUTLOOK

This will be first meeting between North Florida and Middle Tennessee. Last season, UNF posted a 13-19 record with an 8-10 mark in Atlantic Sun Conference play to finish tied for seventh in the league.

The Ospreys return two starters to the 2013-14 squad, including Travis Wallace and Beau Beech. Wallace averaged 14.2 points per game and 5.2 rebounds per contest last season, while Beech tallied 7.9 points and 3.8 boards an outing. In addition to these two, UNF also returns Charles McRoy and Demarcus Daniels. Outside of the returning quartet, Ospreys are a brand new team, losing eight players from last year's squad and welcoming eight newcomers this season.

UNF opened the 2013-14 season dropping a 77-69 decision at No. 11/10 Florida Nov. 8, before picking up a 72-70 victory at UALR Monday night. The Ospreys used a 35-29 second-half surge to overpower the Trojans, handing them their first home opening loss in over 10 years.

MT is slated to play both UALR and Florida in the next two weeks. Beech led the Ospreys against the Gators with 16 points, while Wallace added 15 points and eight rebounds and Romelo Banks had 10 points. Against UALR, Daniels paced UNF with 17 points, while Wallace and Dallas Moore each put up 13 points and Banks tallied 12. Wallace once against snagged eight boards as did Jalen Nesbitt.

Wallace, Banks and Beech are all averaging double-digit points for North Florida through the first two games. Wallace leads the way with 14.0 per game, while Banks has 11.0 a contest and Beech is averaging 10.0.

Middle Tennessee is 80-43 all-time against current Atlantic Sun schools. MT head coach Kermit Davis is 3-0 in his career against the current A-Sun membership. Davis and UNF head coach Matthew Driscoll have never coached against each other.

North Florida's season came to an end in 2012-13, when the Ospreys lost to in-state foe Florida Gulf Coast 73-63 in the quarterfinals of the A-Sun Tournament. FGCU went on to earn the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, reaching the Sweet 16 and becoming the darlings of the Big Dance.

UNF was picked to finish fifth in the A-Sun this season, tallying one first-place vote in the conference's Preseason Coaches' Poll. FGCU was the preseason favorite with six first-place votes, followed closely behind by Mercer with three first-place nods.

Since joining the Division I level, the Ospreys have only had one season of .500 or better, finishing 16-16 overall and 10-8 in conference play in 2011-12. UNF joined the NCAA Division I ranks in 2005, after transitioning from Division II, which it was a member from 1993-94. North Florida spent one season as an NAIA independent (1992-93).

Live audio, stats and a webstream of Wednesday's game will be available online at GoBlueRaiders.com.

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