Both the men’s and women’s MTSU basketball teams headed yesterday to Bowling Green to take on rival Western Kentucky in a Saturday-Sunday twin bill as part of the second stop in the away-game schedule.
MTSU junior Kortni Jones (24) had a career game Thursday night against the ULM Warhawks, helping the Lady Raiders continue their winning streak and positioning them well for the Sun Belt Conference tournament next week. (Photo courtesy of MTSU/B. Lambert)
Both the men’s and women’s MTSU basketball teams ended the home portion of the 2011-12 season Feb. 18 against Sun Belt Conference Eastern Division rival, Florida Atlantic.
The Lady Raiders clinched another conference title and the overall No. 1 seed for the upcoming conference tournament, which starts March 3 in Hot Springs, Ark.
As for the men, the Feb. 18 game against Florida Atlantic left the Blue Raiders with an outright regular season conference title.
Now, both teams are on the road hoping to continue their successes.
The first stop on the road trip was Thursday against Louisiana-Monroe.
In that contest, Kortni Jones smashed two single-season Sun Belt records on her way to tying her career-high point total, helping lift the Lady Raiders to a 67-53 road victory inside the Fant-Ewing Coliseum in Monroe, La.
The victory was the Lady Raiders’ 17th in a row, the third longest streak in school history.
The women have not lost a road game since an 82-43 loss Nov. 29 at then No. 8 ranked Tennessee. Since then, the Lady Raiders have won seven consecutive road contests in row.
The Lady Raiders know, even though they have clinched the top spot in the Sun Belt, they want to head into the conference tournament with positive momentum.
“Coach (Rick Insell) tells us championships are won on the road, and he tells us that before every road game,” Jones said. “It puts us in that mindset of better focus. … I think it is really good that we have our last two games on the road. … I think it will actually worth to our advantage.”
Coming off a 65-41 victory over Florida Atlantic, the Lady Raiders finished the home part of the conference schedule with a perfect Sun Belt (7-0) record at home, continuing with an incredible 61-1 home record.
Also, the Lady Raiders have already clinched a fourth consecutive SBC East Division title. Jones lead the way Feb. 18 with 21 points, including four huge three-pointers in the win. Along with Jones, Ebony Rowe added 13 points.
The Blue Raiders have not earned a regular season conference title since 1989.
Back then, the Blue Raiders were part of the Ohio Valley Conference.
The Blue Raiders also broke the school record for most wins during the season with 24. The previous record was 22, set during the 1986-87 season. They finished that season with a loss in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to Notre Dame.
The men beat Florida Atlantic 72-59, finishing with only one loss at home this season.
On Nov. 20, the Blue Raiders lost 87-84 in double overtime against in-state rival Belmont.
LaRon Dendy, who finished with 20 points in his final home game, led the Blue Raiders in scoring.
The outright conference title gives the Blue Raiders an automatic bid into the championships. However, that is only if they slip and lose in the upcoming conference tournament starting March 3 and do not get an at-large berth into the NCAA Tournament.
The team has also earned the No. 1 seed in the upcoming Sun Belt tournament.
MTSU head coach Kermit Davis said it was a great feeling to win the conference, but he added that the Blue Raiders still have more games to play.
“The regular-season championship and the No. 1 seed in the tournament have been wrapped up, and that’s good, but we are playing for something bigger,” Davis said. “We are right that in that conversation of teams, but we have to go on the road and win … tough games.”
The men jumped out to an 8-0 lead and never looked back, cruising to a 94-61 victory Thursday over the ULM Warhawks.
The Blue Raiders collected an impressive 30 assists on 35 field goals and all 15 Blue Raiders saw action in the contest.
With the win, the men clinched the Sun Belt’s best record this season at 14-1 in the league. The Blue Raiders also continued to set the school mark for wins, now with a 25-4 overall record.
Jason Jones led the team to a season-best 94 points with his season-high of 16 points, while JT Sulton scored 13 and Shawn Jones added 10. Bruce Massey tallied a game-high seven assists and Jimmy Oden added five as 12 Blue Raiders had at least one assist.
“We have to go there and take care of business like we need to,” Dendy said, referring to this weekend’s schedule, “and get ready for the conference tournament.”
Final scores and stats for the MTSU Blue Raider and Lady Raider games against the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers were not available by deadline. For further updates on this weekend’s games, visit murfreesboropost.com.