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Mon, Apr 21, 2014

HALE: Blue Raiders must improve accuracy at charity stripe

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MURFREESBORO, Tenn. -- Scoring is on the rise in men’s college basketball, but the amount of field goals being made is down.

So why are there higher scoring games this season? It’s quite simple. Officials are calling the games tighter and teams are going to the free-throw line more than in the past.

For MTSU, that necessarily hasn’t been a good thing. Through its first 10 games, MTSU shot 290 free throws, 70 more than it shot a year ago during the same span.

The problem is the Blue Raiders are only shooting free throws at a 66 percent clip. You just can’t look a gift horse in the mouth and kick it.

In the Blue Raiders’ 72-63 loss at Ole Miss last Saturday, MTSU made just 11 of 21 freebies.

While MTSU ranks consistently near the top in about every statistical category in Conference USA, it has been – quite frankly – woeful at the charity stripe. The Blue Raiders are 12th in the league in free-throw percentage.

College basketball games are going to be won and lost at the free-throw line this season.

It’s not like the Blue Raiders don’t repeatedly practice them either. However, they simply haven’t cashed in on their opportunities. It will be interesting to chart their progress at the line as the season progresses.

Jones honored by C-USA

MTSU senior forward Shawn Jones picked up MTSU’s first men’s player of the week honors in Conference USA this week.

The 6-8 forward scored 18 points in just 18 minutes against Fisk last week, and then had a monster game at Ole Miss with 18 points and 15 rebounds.

Breakout performance

MTSU Lady Raider senior forward KeKe Stewart had a huge night for MTSU on Monday when it defeated Central Florida 63-51 on the road.

Stewart matched her career high of 22 points and knocked down 4 of 5 from 3-point range.

And Ebony Rowe was, well, Ebony Rowe. She notched another double-double with 20 points and 11 rebounds.

By the numbers

If you’re charting MTSU’s RPI scores right now, the men checked in on Tuesday at No. 111. As a conference, C-USA is the 18th-ranked league in the nation. While men’s basketball looks to be stronger than the Sun Belt Conference (MTSU’s former league), the RPI suggests otherwise as the Sun Belt is ranked No. 16.

The Lady Raiders’ RPI as of Tuesday was No. 23 in the nation. As a league, Conference USA boasts a No. 13 national ranking, compared to the Sun Belt, which his No. 24.

Hammonds banged up

MTSU senior guard Kerry Hammonds missed Tuesday night’s game with a sprained ankle.

Hammonds has been plagued by injuries throughout his career, but when healthy, is what you might consider the glue to the team.

It seems that when Hammonds is on the court is when MTSU is at its best. The Blue Raiders will certainly need his presence and production on the court when the Conference USA portion of the schedule rolls around.

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