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South Alabama (11-9) at Arkansas-Little Rock (14-9)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, February 2, 8 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Jack Stephens Center (5,600) -- Little Rock, Arkansas. Television: None. Home Record: USA 6-3, UALR 11-1. Away Record: USA 5-4, UALR 2-7. Neutral Record: USA 0-2, UALR 1-1. Conference Record: USA 8-4, UALR 8-4. Series Record: South Alabama leads, 24-19.
GAME NOTES: The Arkansas-Little Rock Trojans return home seeking a continuation of their recent hot streak, as they entertain the South Alabama Jaguars at the Jack Stephens Center on Saturday night.
South Alabama most recently squared off against Arkansas State on Thursday night, and it was handed a 74-62 road defeat to drop to 11-9 this season. Despite the setback, the Jaguars are one of the stronger teams in the Sun Belt, winning eight of 12 conference battles this season, good for second place in the East Division behind only Middle Tennessee.
UALR (14-9, 8-4) sits alone in first place of the league's West Division, and it has been playing its best basketball in recent weeks. The Trojans won their third game in a row last Saturday when they saddled North Texas with a 62-57 defeat, and now they return to Little Rock where they've won 11 of 12 bouts this season.
South Alabama leads the all-time series with UALR, 24-19, and the Jaguars won the first matchup this season, 77-62, on Dec. 22, 2012.
The Jaguars trailed Arkansas State for most of their contest earlier in the week, and while they were able to cut the deficit to just two with under five minute to play, ASU promptly responded with an 8-0 run to pull away. Augustine Rubit has seen much better days from the field (3-of-11), but he drilled all 12 of his free throws on his way to 18 points while narrowly missing a double- double with nine rebounds. Javier Carter was the only other player in double figures with 11 points in 25 minutes off the bench. Rubit anchors the squad and is arguably the Sun Belt's most imposing force, tallying 19.1 ppg, 10.8 rpg and 1.5 bpg, and as he displayed on Thursday that he's an outstanding free-throw shooter for a big man (.788). Joining Rubit in the paint is Mychal Ammons, who adds 10.8 ppg, 7.1 rpg and more than a block per contest, while Antoine Allen scores 8.8 ppg, but does so while struggling mightily from the field (.311).
UALR was able to outlast North Texas last Saturday by outshooting the Mean Green from the field, 41.2 percent to 34.6 percent, and it managed to hold on to a single-digit lead for entire second half. The balanced effort was paced by 11 points apiece from Will Neighbour, Josh Hagins and James White, while Neighbour also ripped down a team-high six rebounds and logged four steals. On the season, the Trojans boast the third-best scoring margin in the league by posting 67.3 ppg and allowing only 65.4 ppg. They are used to getting a well- rounded effort from a deep rotation, as nine players net at least 4.8 ppg. Neighbour is the top performer, draining greater than 48 percent of his field goal attempts for 11.6 ppg while hauling in a team-high 6.9 rpg. He is also an asset at the defensive end, contributing more than a block and a steal per game. John Gillon chips in with 10.2 ppg, and Hagins tallies 7.8 ppg and 3.2 apg.
Given UALR's recent string of success and sustained excellence on its home floor, it should have the upper hand in downing a solid South Alabama squad.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Arkansas-Little Rock 67, South Alabama 65
02/02 10:45:16 ET