MTSU set for 1st Conference USA road swing

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MURFREESBORO, Tenn. -- The MTSU men’s basketball team will test its mettle this week as it hits the road for the first time in Conference USA play.

The Blue Raiders (12-6, 2-1) visit a red-hot Tulsa squad tonight that is 8-9 overall, but 3-1 in C-USA and winners of four of its last five games. Tipoff is set for 8 p.m.

“They’re the top scoring team in our league,” said MTSU coach Kermit Davis. “They’re averaging about 81 points in league play. They’re a young team, but they’ve got great guards.

“We’ve got to really get back defensively, and we’ve got to find a way to slow them down.

“We played our first three conference games at home, and we’ve only got five left. So, it’s time to get out on the road and see how we match up.”

MTSU got a well-round offensive effort in last Saturday’s 80-58 whipping over Texas-San Antonio. Senior Kerry Hammonds’ 19 points led the Blue Raiders, and junior guard Marcus Tarrance netted 16 off the bench.

“That was big for Marcus,” Davis said. “We really need him or Jaqawn Raymond to step up. With those two and Kerry, we’ve got to have at least two of the three playing at a high level. The big thing for Marcus was he got to the rim and got to the free-throw line.”

Although it’s early in the C-USA season, it looks to be a wide-open race. Old Dominion is the only unbeaten at 3-0, while Southern Miss, Louisiana Tech, Charlotte, UTEP and Tulsa are all 3-1. MTSU is 2-1, and four other teams are 2-2.

“It’s going to be a great race,” Davis said. “You can have a good week and play yourself right back into it, or you can have a bad one and kind of dig yourself a hole.

“Right now, UTEP and Old Dominion have some good road wins, which gives them an edge, but there are just a lot of quality basketball teams. That’s what is going to make the league so fun to watch for the fans.”

Following Thursday’s road game at Tulsa, MTSU will travel to Denton, Texas, to face North Texas (10-8, 1-3) on Saturday.

“It can be a tough place to play,” Davis said of North Texas. “They’ve have kind of a strange season. They went to Texas A&M and won by about 20, and then got swept the next week.

“They beat Marshall by about 15, and they’ve had a couple of tough, close losses, but they’re a team that can really get rolling if you don’t go out and defend.”

MTSU will return home next week when it faces East Carolina (Jan. 30) and Old Dominion (Feb. 1). Both game will be televise on MyTV30.

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