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Wed, Dec 17, 2014

HUNTER: Home has been sweet for MTSU squads

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MURFREESBORO, Tenn. -- In the 40 years that the Murphy Center has been open, both the MTSU men's and women's teams have enjoyed a lot of success inside the “Glass House.”

Lately, most of the visitors have left Murfreesboro beaten and broken by both the Blue Raiders and Lady Raiders. Even the few home losses have been against quality opponents.

Including this season and heading into this Saturday's game against Old Dominion, the Lady Raiders have only lost eight, count those, eight games at Murphy Center during the last five seasons.

However, some of those rare losses were against some of the toughest competition in the game, including Tennessee (twice), Xavier, Arkansas, Georgia Tech and Kentucky.

The other two losses during the stretch were to former Sun Belt Conference foe Troy and current Conference USA member FIU. But overall, it has been a pretty impressive run by the Lady Raiders.

The most impressive stat of all is since legendary head coach Rick Insell took over the program during the 2005-06 season, the Lady Raiders have a conference record of 70-3.

So, the easy question is why has MTSU been so good at home the past few seasons? The answer is pretty simple, according to the players and Insell.

“You got to develop pride at home,” Insell said. “You got to take care of your home court. In the game of athletics, it does not matter if it is football, soccer, volleyball or men’s basketball – you’ve got to take pride in your home court.”

Freshman forward and former Riverdale star Olivia Jones added: “Just playing in front of our crowd we are more confident. The fan base is good, and we do not want to lose on our home court.

As for the men, their success at home has picked up the past three seasons, including this one, but those have helped put Blue Raider basketball back on the map.

During the two-plus seasons, the Blue Raiders have only lost four, yes four times, at home. Two of those losses were to Belmont, a team which has dominated its conference, regardless if it is the Atlantic Sun or the Ohio Valley. The other two losses were to Minnesota during the 2012 Postseason NIT, and last week against new C-USA member UTEP, which is coached by former NBA head coach Tim Floyd.

“We have been very good, and I credit it to two things ‑‑ really good players and a growing fan base,” MTSU coach Kermit Davis said. “Those two make for a really good home court advantage.”

During this time of year, coaches around the country talk about the importance of taking care of their home court in league games, while stealing wins on the road. Both of the MTSU coaches admit it will be a tougher road this year to keep the streak going because of the depth from top to bottom of C-USA.

“It was difficult in the Sun Belt, but I think it is just more good teams in the league,” Davis said. “The talent level is just more. Our fans kind of got used to (winning at home) because our margin of victory at home was just phenomenal for a couple of years. They are going to see a lot more games like the UAB overtime win and the UTEP game. It is going to be a lot of those games at home.”

However, recent history has shown Murphy Center is a tough place for a road team to win, and both squads hope to continue the trend in front of the best fans in the league. Both teams are near the top in the league standings in terms of attendance.

Currently, the Lady Raiders are ranked 12th in the nation in attendance, averaging 5,564 fans per game. The Blue Raiders are ranked seventh in C-USA with 4,275 fans per game.

“It is good because not a lot of schools have this many fans,” Jones said. “It is a blessing to have so many people come out and watch you play.”

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