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JwgreDeux

Middle Tennessee State - Preview / Review

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Later today, we will play one of the better teams we have faced all season. Middle has a two game winning streak vs SEC teams coming into this game, with wins vs Vandy and Ole Miss. They are 7-1 on the season, with their lone loss coming against Belmont. They have an early season RPI of 14 (vs our 58), which is the source of all their hype right now, but are ranked 66 in KenPom (vs our 43). Vegas likes the boys in Orange and Blue, making Auburn a -3.5 favorite. That may surprise some of you, based on a lot of the talk leading up to this game, but make no mistake we are the deeper team here. 

Middle has a trio of players that are formidable. King (post/forward), Walters (post)  and Potts (guard) could start on most SEC rosters. These are their only three players averaging double figures, with King averaging nearly 25 per game, leading the team in rebounding at 6.6 per, and third in assists. Slow down King and we should win this game. He is a transfer from Memphis by way of Alabama, and hasn't been held under 20 points since their first game of the season, when he only played 22 minutes. In their last three games has played 37, 34 and 30 minutes, scoring 32, 24 and 25 points. In their loss to Belmont and their close wins vs FGC and Vandy, he was held to 52%, 52% and 40%. Watching them this season, King and Walters will be a handful for us down low, they dominated Vandy in the post. No doubt that is where they will look early and often with our undersized post players. I would like to see us double the post, or to aggressively front the post with McLemore and Spencer. If Murray get hung up behind those guys, I'm skeptical he will be able to hold up. They are not a good jump shooting team, only shooting 30% from three. We need to deny King the ball at almost all costs. Defensively they are athletic and fairly active, holding teams to 67 per game on 48% shooting. One area they lack in though is shot blocking, only blocking 2 per game. Vandy had some success in finding open threes, missing one at the buzzer to tie.

Offensively, I would like to see our guards penetrate and attack the rim, kicking it out for open shots if we can't get open shots in the paint. Hopefully, we can put pressure on their posts and possibly get King into foul trouble. It would greatly help us in this type of game to have Heron available. It will be interesting to see how they defend us. Our athletic posts could pose problems for them, Murray at the high post especially. We need a good shooting night to force them to defend away from the basket and free up some space inside. Depth is a big advantage tonight, an uptempo high pressure game is what I'd like to see. Slower game will help Middle, no doubt. 

 

Hopefully, Heron is ready to go, because we need him to pull this one off. Unlike many games to this point, I could see this game going in a number of directions. This is a chance for us to pick up our best win of the season, and possible make a statement, if we can limit King. This will be a good indicator of how we will be able to navigate SEC play, so watch this one closely. 

 

War Eagle!

 

 

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Usually you learn lessons the hard way, it is more rare to learn them and pick up a big win at the same time, but that is what happened vs Middle this weekend. The gameplan and execution was exactly what we hoped for. We attacked the basket and were killing them with points in the paint, we fronted the post causing turnovers and frustrations for King, with King catching the ball away from the basket Murray had the advantage, and we sped the game up, going into halftime up huge with a chance to make the statement. At the half we led 42-25. 

In the second half things started out just fine, and stayed that way for about 5 minutes of game time, and led by double digits until about 7 minutes left in the game. Most will point to Dunbar's double technical foul, and the four free throws made by Potts, as the turning point, but it started a few possessions before that. Around the 30 minute mark of the game, the announcers began discussing the teams in a way that sounded like an Auburn win was a forgone conclusion. It seemed as if our players felt the same sensation, but nobody informed Middle. Harper and Mitchell put up some quick shots. Our post defenders weren't quite as aggressive in establishing defensive position, and the pursuit of rebounds waned slightly. Bottom line: we began to let up and abandon the gameplan that got us that huge lead. Then the Dunbar sequence happened, and you had a full blown "run" that was difficult to stop. Harper, despite his shot selection during that period, did gather himself and again began driving the ball. He drew the last foul on Potts and was protected the ball and made free throws down the stretch as Middle began nailing a series of late three point baskets. It was encouraging to see Harper respond in the situation, even if he contributed to it in the first place. 

The result, a win. Also, a realization that we completely out classed an all but certain NCAA tourney team. We targeted and limited an opposing team's best player more effectively than I have seen before in CBP's tenure. King was held to half of his average in points, below his average in rebounds, and he turned the ball over 7 times. We held him to 22% shooting from two point range, and 31% overall, he was frustrated and flustered all night long. Even with the second half lapse, we held them to 70 points. 

Offensively, Heron looked good in his return, Harper was clutch down the strech, each leading the team with 16. Okeke continued to show his skills with an unbelievable 75% shooting night, on his way to 14 points. And Horace Spencer had his best game of the season, with an extremely efficient 11 pts and 7 rebs. If he could bottle that effort it will lift this team to another level.  Brown and Murray struggled offensively, but both played extremely well defensively, and without Murray limiting King, we lose this game. McLemore did his usual thing with 8 points and 4 blocks, and Mitchell was solid in his relief of Harper. All the way around you saw the balance this team has in several stat categories. We also kept our streak alive, out rebounding Middle 31-28.

 

Be encouraged by the win, learn from the mistakes, this group has some real momentum building. 

Edited by JwgreDeux
Updated with Review
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28 minutes ago, waaegl said:

Any updates on Heron?

He is starting tonight 

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Fronting the post well so far, and Murray is frustrating King. 

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Okeke...Heron...Brown...It'd be silly to say we're not missing Wiley and Purifoy, but it's evident to see the depth Pearl is beginning to build in this program

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Good to play a game or two in Bham but the team deserves more support....lots of empty seats...but playing great.

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Defense doing a great job forcing jump shots 

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Great half of defense. 

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42-25 good guys at the half. 

Edited by JwgreDeux

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Just now, Tigerbelle said:

Score please?

42-25 at the half....

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I’m at the game ... there could be a seat or 2 open ...

other than some sloppy turnovers they are playing well.

i can appreciate the D way more watching them live.  They are very active on D.

middle is frustrated.  We are better than them.  I think this may be an eye opener game for both teams.  I hope we can keep from that let up we have seen in the past.

if they play the second half likes ifs 0-0, we should have a solid win.

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Well didn't need to see Dunbar get tossed.....not good technical....but with a 20 point we should be able to get past that....

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