This week, the MTSU men’s and women’s basketball teams play host two important Sun Belt games against Arkansas Little-Rock and Louisiana-Lafayette.
Both teams have put an emphasis on performing well in front of the Murphy Center crowd. Currently, the men’s team has won 21 consecutive games at home, while the women’s team had won 40 out of its last 41 conference home games.
The action started last night when the Lady Raiders faced the Trojans in a rematch of last season’s SBC tournament finals, which UALR knocked off MTSU, 71-70, in overtime. This was the first meeting between the schools since then. MT knocked off UALR, 65-56.
Coming into the game, the Lady Raiders have been on a roll winning five in a row since having its 37-game conference home winning streak snapped on Dec. 20 by Florida International. MTSU junior forward Ebony Rowe believes the team is gelling together as a team.
“We are really confident and playing together as a team,” Rowe said. “We starting to click, and everything is falling into place.”
A few games ago, MTSU head coach Rick Insell made a change in the starting lineup looking for better play out of the post. He inserted junior forward Lauren March into a starting role against South Alabama on Jan. 5, and it has helped as the Blue Raiders have won three in a row since then by an average of 17 points.
On Saturday, the Lady Raiders welcome a young but improved Ragin’ Cajun team to the Murphy Center. ULL played at Western Kentucky on Wednesday before heading to Murfreesboro. This will be the second meeting of the season between the two schools. MTSU won the first meeting, 72-45 on Nov. 24 with Rowe leading the way with 21 points.
“They got a new coach (Garry Brodhead), and they are playing with a little confidence since we played them earlier in the season,” Insell said after practice on Jan. 14. “They are a very athletic, love running in transition, and pressuring the ball on defense.”
In the two wins last week, the Lady Raiders were led by Rowe, who averaged a double-double, 27 points and 12 rebounds in both games. She also scored a career-high 32 points in the 66-48 win at Louisiana-Monroe on Jan. 12. Her performance earned her SBC Player of the Week honors for the third time this season.
As for the men, tonight it hosts UALR, and then plays ULL on Saturday afternoon as part of a doubleheader with the women’s game at the Murphy Center. The Blue Raider wants to continue its long home winning streak this weekend.
“We know these are two big home games, and we got to defend our home court this week,” Junior guard/forward and former Siegel High player Kerry Hammonds II said before practice on Jan. 14.
The Blue Raiders will be looking to continue its 21 game Murphy Center against a Trojan team, which leads the SBC Western Division. It will be a battle between the best in the east against the best in the west, and this will be the only regular season meeting this season for MTSU and UALR.
UALR is led by one of the top forwards in the SBC in sophomore Will Neighbour, who averages 12.5 points per game. However, the Trojans have not won a road game this season, but it is 10-1 on their home floor. Also, the Trojans have one of the youngest teams in the nation in terms of minutes played, and they only have one senior and two juniors on the team. The Blue Raiders know it will be another challenging task tonight.
“I think Neighbour is as talented as anybody in our league,” MTSU head coach Kermit Davis said before practice. “They are playing real hard, and will come in playing with a lot of confidence.”
A couple of days later, MTSU faces ULL for the second and final time this season. The Blue Raiders won the first meeting 72-58 on Nov. 29. The Ragin’ Cajuns plays at Western Kentucky tonight before heading to Murfreesboro.
Tonight men’s game versus UALR starts at 7 p.m. and it will be on ESPN3. The women’s game against ULL on Saturday begins at 3 p.m. with the men scheduled to tip-off at 5:30 p.m. All three games will be at the Murphy Center.