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Sat, Nov 22, 2014

HALE: Blue Raiders face another key road swing

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HALE: Blue Raiders face another key road swing | mtsu, men's basketball, blue raiders, shawn jones, monte hale

MTSU senior Shawn Jones earned his second Conference USA player of the week award this week. (Photo courtesy of Bradley Lambert/MTSU media relations)

 

Losing is never a good thing, but in some instances a loss can serve as a wake-up call and go along way in terms of a team coming together.

The MTSU men's basketball team, which sits at 15-7 overall and 5-2 going into tonight's Conference USA road game at FAU, just might be an example of the aforementioned.

When MTSU made its first league road swing to Tulsa (Jan 23)  and North Texas (Jan. 25), it all started with a heartbreaking loss to Tulsa.

Two nights later, the Blue Raiders found themselves down by 13 points in the second half, but they regrouped and pulled away for an easy victory.

Since that time, MTSU has reeled off two more victories to put itself right in contention in the C-USA race. The Blue Raiders trail only UTEP and Southern Miss, which are 6-1 in league play.

"I think we grew up a lot on that road trip," said MTSU coach Kermit Davis. "When had a devastating loss, but to our players credit, they bounced right back."

This week's road swing to FAU and FIU serves as another critical week for MTSU. As Davis has noted before, a team can play itself right back into the race with a good week, yet a bad week can result in a team falling five or six places in the standings.

The greed in us would hope that MTSU will sweep this week's road trip. However, a split on the road is never a bad thing.
Both games will certainly be difficult. FAU has played well of late and owns a very impressive recent win over a good Harvard team. FIU knocked MTSU out of the Sun Belt tournament in the semifinals last year and returns a wealth of talent.

MTSU has a very realistic chance at posting a 20-win season, which would likely earn it a NIT bid should it not win the C-USA tournament.

MTSU has certainly found out that the competition in C-USA is very good. Every team provides a different challenge and a difficult matchup.

The talent level in this conference is amazing, from the guards to post players. MTSU senior forward Shawn Jones, who earned C-USA player of the week honors this week for the second time, falls right into that category.

Jones' play has been consistent all season in conference play, but the Blue Raiders also need seniors Tweety Knight, Kerry Hammonds and Neiko Hunter at the top of their game as well.

Winning on the road requires senior leadership and your key players to step up their level of play.

MTSU will need exactly that beginning tonight in Boca Raton, Fla.

Monte Hale Jr. is managing editor of The Murfreesboro Post. Email him at mhale@murfreesboropost.com. Follow him on Twitter at HaleMonte.

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