Louisiana (6-9) at Florida Atlantic (7-8)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, January 3, 7 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: FAU Arena (5,000) -- Boca Raton, Florida. Television: None. Home Record: Louisiana 5-2, FAU 4-2. Away Record: Louisiana 1-7, FAU 2-6. Neutral Record: Louisiana 0-0, FAU 1-0. Conference Record: Louisiana 2-2, FAU 2-2. Series Record: Louisiana leads, 4-3.
GAME NOTES: A pair of Sun Belt Conference squads attempt to move above .500 in league play on Thursday night when the Florida Atlantic Owls play host to the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns.
At 6-9 overall, Louisiana's season has had more down than up through the first two months, but it has been able to right the ship of late with wins in two of its last three outings, most recently defeating conference foe Arkansas-Little Rock last Saturday, 79-70. The Cajuns' success has been few and far between on the road however, winning just one of eight matchups away from Lafayette.
FAU has also won two of its last three, having stepped out of conference on New Year's Day to defeat Hofstra, 61-57. The Owls have been slightly more impressive than the Cajuns to this point, posting a 7-8 record overall, but it has also shown to be streaky, having endured both a three-game winning streak and a three-game losing streak during the month of December.
Louisiana capture the last meeting between these two squads, 67-55, on Dec. 31, 2011, to take a 4-3 advantage in the all-time series.
The Ragin' Cajuns put forth an impressive showing in their nine-point victory over UALR, shooting nearly 50 percent from the field while holding the Trojans to 31.3 percent. They were catapulted to the win by a season-best performance from Bryant Mbamalu, who shot 9-of-14 from the floor on his way to 26 points. Shawn Long was also solid in the triumph, tallying 10 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks, while Alan-Michael Thompson provided a spark off the bench with 13 points. Louisiana's offensive production this season has been fairly consistent, as it nets nearly 71 ppg, but its biggest issue has been keeping its opponents off the scoreboard (73.1 ppg). Long has been one of the conference's best big men, averaging team-highs in points (16.3 ppg), rebounds (9.7 rpg) and blocks (2.1 bpg), while also stretching the floor with 15 3- pointers. Elfrid is another guy who demonstrates balance (13.7 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 5.0 apg, 2.3 spg), and Mbamalu adds 12.9 ppg.
FAU has seen better days offensively than in its recent clash with Hofstra, as it shot below 37 percent from the field for just 61 points, but it was able to rip off a 19-6 run over the final 10 minutes to capture the four-point win. Greg Gantt continued to show why he is one of the nation's premiere scorers by making 8-of-18 shots from the field for a game-high 24 points, his sixth straight game netting at least 23 points. The senior guard is now averaging 22.4 ppg, good for fifth in the nation, thanks in large part to a 43-of-103 showing from beyond the arc (.417). Stefan Moody was also solid in the Owls' latest win, recording 16 points, seven rebounds and a pair of blocks. Outside of Gantt, FAU typically has trouble generating offense, as the team shoots just 39.6 percent from the floor in generating 64.4 ppg. Moody is the only other player to average in double figures with 13.8 ppg.
The Cajuns have shown to be a much more balanced team than the Owls at this point, but their struggles away from home have been well-documented. The Owls are entirely too reliant on the play of Gantt, but his hot streak shows no sign of slowing down.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Florida Atlantic 65, Louisiana 63
01/03 10:44:35 ET