Arkansas State (14-8) at Louisiana (16-9)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, February 15, 8:15 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Cajundome (12,068) -- Lafayette, Louisiana. Television: None. Home Record: ASU 7-2, Louisiana 10-2. Away Record: ASU 7-6, Louisiana 5-7. Neutral Record: ASU 0-0, Louisiana 1-0. Conference Record: ASU 7-4, Louisiana 7-5. Series Record: Louisiana leads, 42-25.
GAME NOTES: The Arkansas State Red Wolves and the Louisiana Ragin Cajuns will attempt to keep their respective winning streaks alive on Saturday night when the Sun Belt Conference foes meet up at the Cajundome.
ASU has managed to surge up the Sun Belt standings in recent weeks with three consecutive victories, most recently piecing together a dominant effort at South Alabama on Thursday night in a 85-61 victory. The Red Wolves are now 14-8 overall and 7-4 in league play, and they own a respectable 7-6 record on the road.
Louisiana is one of the few Sun Belt teams on an even bigger roll than ASU, as it has won four in a row to improve to 16-9 overall and 7-5 in conference action. The Cajuns had to battle through two overtimes on Thursday night but came away with a 93-87 triumph over Arkansas-Little Rock to move to 10-2 on their home floor.
The Cajuns own a 42-25 lead in the all-time series. The squad will meet again in Jonesboro on March 8 in the regular-season finale.
The Red Wolves held a comfortable seven-point lead over South Alabama on Thursday night and only improved upon that advantage after intermission en route to the 24-point drudging. They shot a stellar 52.8 percent from the field, including 11-of-23 from beyond the arc, knocked down all 18 of their free-throw tries and scored 21 points off of 14 South Alabama turnovers. Melvin Johnson III was on fire from 3-point distance (6-of-7) on his way to 24 points, Kirk Van Slyke put up 17 points and eight rebounds and Kendrick Washington and Brandon Reed both poured in 12 points.
ASU has had no trouble putting points on the board this season, as it shoots 45.2 percent from the field (with 8.8 3-pointers per game at a 38.3 percent clip) for 77.3 ppg, which has been enough to support a modest scoring defense (71.5 ppg). Van Slyke posts 16.0 ppg, 6.3 rpg and more than a block per contest while boasting strong percentages from the field (.544), 3-point range (.413) and the foul line (.827). Johnson III (15.2 ppg) has shot a lights-out 62-of-126 from long distance (.492), while Washington (9.9 ppg, 6.5 rpg) and Reed (9.8 ppg) are on the doorstep of the double-digit scorer's club.
After coughing up leads in the final minute of both regulation and the first overtime, the Cajuns redeemed themselves in the second extra session, using a 10-0 run to pull away for the victory. They shot 47.3 percent from the field and earned a 33-17 scoring advantage at the free-throw line, although they nearly cost themselves with 15 turnovers. As he's been doing all season long, Elfrid Payton stuffed the stat sheet in the win, putting up 23 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, four blocks and two steals. Xavian Rimmer was also excellent with 20 points, while Bryant Mbamalu netted 14 points.
Louisiana's offensive attack has been even more impressive than ASU's this season, as it shoots 46.2 percent from the field for 81.3 ppg, but it has been held back at times by a porous defensive effort, allowing 75.3 ppg on the other end of the floor. Payton is arguably the Sun Belt's best all-around performer, as he not only scores 19.8 ppg on 51.1 percent field goal shooting but he adds 6.0 rpg, 5.8 apg and 2.3 spg. Making up the other half of the great inside-outside duo is Shawn Long, who mans the paint with 19.8 ppg, 10.5 rpg and 2.9 bpg, while also stretching the floor with 21 3-pointers. Mbamalu (8.8 ppg) and Rimmer (8.2 ppg) have been solid as well.
In what's sure to be a hard-fought and high-scoring game, expect the Cajuns and their homecourt advantage to get the best of the Red Wolves down the stretch.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Louisiana 84, Arkansas State 80
02/15 10:40:00 ET