Florida Atlantic (11-14) at South Alabama (13-9)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, February 9, 8:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Mitchell Center (10,041) -- Mobile, Alabama. Television: Sun Belt Network, ESPN3.com. Home Record: FAU 7-4, USA 7-3. Away Record: FAU 3-10, USA 6-4. Neutral Record: FAU 1-0, USA 0-2. Conference Record: FAU 6-8, USA 10-4. Series Record: South Alabama leads, 10-4.
GAME NOTES: The South Alabama Jaguars continue their three-game homestand on Saturday night, as they entertain the Florida Atlantic Owls in a Sun Belt Conference showdown at the Mitchell Center.
After starting the month of January by winning four of five games, FAU has plummeted in the standings in recent weeks with losses in five of its last six. The Owls have dropped two straight decisions to fall to 11-14 overall and 6-8 in the Sun Belt, most recently falling on the wrong side of a lopsided verdict against Sunshine State rival FIU on Thursday, 84-65.
South Alabama is in the midst of a 13-9 campaign, and at 10-4 in conference action, it is firmly established as one of the top contenders in the Sun Belt. The Jaguars have won five of their last six tilts, including four in a row at the Mitchell Center, with their latest win coming over Troy on Thursday in come-from-behind fashion, 65-62.
South Alabama extended its lead over FAU in the all-time series to 10-4 with a 77-66 road victory back on Nov. 29.
FAU hung tough for the first 10 minutes against FIU, until the Panthers ended the first half on a 33-12 run to go into intermission with a 21-point lead, and the Owls could never recover. They shot a mere 38 percent from the field in the setback, and while Greg Gantt scored 19 points, he did so on just 7- of-21 from the field. Jordan McCoy (career-high-tying 19 points, nine rebounds) and Pablo Bertone (15 points, seven boards) came off the bench and tallied solid numbers in garbage time. Gantt is the Sun Belt's leading scorer with 21.0 ppg, piling up big point totals thanks to stellar showings from 3- point range (67-of-172) and the foul line (95-of-120), although he is hindered by nearly twice as many turnovers (63) as assists (37). Stefan Moody (14.1 ppg) is the only other player scoring in double figures on a nightly basis for FAU, which produces 63.8 ppg while yielding 67.6 ppg.
Trailing at the half, South Alabama put together a strong final 20 minutes, especially at the foul line (21-of-24), as it overcame Troy and held on for the three-point win. Augustine Rubit was fantastic in the paint yet again, tallying 21 points and 12 rebounds, and Dre Conner netted 11 points while making all eight of his free-throws. While FAU boasts the league's top scorer in Gantt, the Jaguars have arguably the biggest difference-maker in Rubit, who shoots 48.6 percent from the field and 78.1 percent from the foul line for 19.0 ppg while ranking sixth in the nation in rebounding with 10.9 boards per contest. USA is very deep at forward, and Mychal Ammons tallies 10.8 ppg, 6.9 rpg and more than a block and a steal per contest, and while Javier Carter nets just 6.4 ppg, he brings 6.0 rpg and 2.2 bpg to the table. As a team, the Jaguars are one of the stronger offensive squads in the league, posting an average of 69.2 ppg.
In a showdown between two of the league's best players, the edge has to go to Rubit and South Alabama considering its hot hand of late and solid record at the Mitchell Center this season (7-3).
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: South Alabama 70, Florida Atlantic 62
02/09 10:35:14 ET