MTSU vs WKU Preview
By: Jack Patterson
MTN Sports Reporter
The MTSU Blue Raider’s men’s basketball team has been on a tear as of late, having won 12 of their last 13 games overall, and are currently on a 14-game home win streak. The team is in one of their best grooves that the program has seen in quite some time.
(Photo Credits: Christopher Sakacsi)
However, their biggest matchup of the season so far is this Saturday night against none other than their number one rival, Western Kentucky. Not only is it a huge rivalry game, WKU is also right behind MTSU in the Conference-USA East Division rankings. It is believed that the winner of this game will be the winner of the East Division at the season’s end. Needless to say, this is a must win game for both teams.
Further, there is even more on the line for the Blue Raiders because not only are they looking to keep their undefeated record at home this season by winning their 15th straight in the Murphy Center, but they are also looking for the season sweep against WKU. Earlier this season, the Blue Raiders defeated WKU in an away matchup, 93-85, so one could definitely call this a revenge game for WKU, which gives them extra motivation. Josh Jefferson and Donovan Sims look to continue their success against WKU, as they dropped 31 points and 22 points respectively in the last matchup.
With the Blue Raiders already playing two games this week, head coach Nick McDevitt has a special preparation plan in place for the matchup. “We have to be really careful with how much we do but we have to do enough to be prepared cause we have got a really good team that’s won seven in a row coming in here…so I think it’s a great point to where you just can’t overdo it in between games right now,” said McDevitt. He further explained that his team has a tremendous body load, and that Eli Lawrence took charge and played 34 minutes in their game against Marshall, Thursday night, which helped with resting their strong bench.
Since this is the team’s biggest matchup of the season so far, the number of fans in attendance is expected to be one of the season’s biggest showings. In the game against Marshall on Thursday night, the “Blue Zoo” fans came out in abundance. Blue Raider’s guard, Teafale Lenard Jr., explained that this usually gives him and the team extra hype and helps them get even more fired up.
Coach McDevitt even said that the motivation the fans give the team needs to carry into Saturday's matchup. “We’ve got to have it. Having the Blue Zoo there with the band… its great! They got into it multiple times and its just great having the crowd here at the “Glass House” and we have to finish it up here on Saturday. We’ve had a great run here this year, and now just one left,” he said.
Having so much to play for: defending the undefeated record at home, keeping the home winning streak alive, playing the team directly behind them in the division ranks who is also red hot recently, and earning the series sweep with a win, Coach McDevitt is not overly worried about any sort of added pressure that all those elements add to the game.
“You just have got to go out there and do what has gotten you to this point. We don’t have to do anything other than what we have done all year. But we know who we’re playing, and the fans know who we’re playing on Saturday. It’ll be a fun atmosphere. We know what’s at stake, both teams are playing well but you just have to go play,” said McDevitt. He went on to explain that the plays and flow of the game come more naturally once the ball is in the air and that all the “extra stuff” slips everyone’s minds.
With all that is on the line in this matchup, this should be one of the biggest games of the season in all of Conference-USA. Coach McDevitt and the Blue Raiders look to conquer WKU once more and keep the win streak alive in their final home game with tip-off starting at 6:00 CST in “The Glass House” Saturday night.