Arkansas-Little Rock (8-5) at South Alabama (5-5)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, December 22, 3:05 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Mitchell Center (10,000) -- Mobile, Alabama. Television: None. Home Record: UALR 7-1, USA 2-1. Away Record: UALR 0-3, USA 3-2. Neutral Record: UALR 1-1, USA 0-2. Conference Record: UALR 2-0, USA 2-0. Series Record: South Alabama leads, 23-14.
GAME NOTES: The South Alabama Jaguars make their debut under interim coach Jeff Price as they host Arkansas-Little Rock at the Mitchell Center for a Sun Belt Conference bout.
Price, who served as the head coach of Georgia Southern for 10 seasons from 1999-2009, steps in after Ronnie Arrow decided to retire 10 games into the season. Arrow finished as the Sun Belt's all-time winningest coach after leading the Jaguars to a 5-5 mark through 10 games. South Alabama began the season with an upset of Florida State on the road and is currently 2-0 in league action after a pair of victories over Florida Atlantic and FIU. The Jaguars ended a two-game losing slide on Sunday by edging Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, 74-69, on Sunday. They are averaging 71.9 points per game, which is 1.5 more than their opponents are producing per contest.
Steve Shields's Trojans are coming off of a 75-73 loss to Louisiana Tech on Monday that dropped their overall record to 8-5. UALR is 2-0 in conference play with victories over Troy (58-56) and ULM (83-58), but it is still winless on the road after three games. The Trojans are leading the Sun Belt in both defensive field goal percentage (39.8) and defensive 3-point percentage (26.8) to hold opponents to 63.8 points per contest. They are producing 68.2 ppg on the offensive end, but they have converted only 66 percent from the free-throw line.
Although the Jaguars have a 23-14 all-time record against UALR, the Trojans have won the last two encounters. USA, UALR, and Western Kentucky are the only three teams left in the Sun Belt without a loss in conference action entering Saturday.
USA held a 13-point advantage over TAMUCC with less than four minutes to play, but the Islanders staged a late comeback effort. The Jaguars held on for the win by converting 12-of-18 from the charity stripe after the break. They were able to win the rebounding battle 48-29 and score 30 points in the paint to TAMUCC's 16. Augustine Rubit powered the team to the victory with a monster double-double of 23 points and 19 rebounds. The junior forward has impressive averages of 18.9 points and 10.3 boards per contest and needs just three points to reach the 1,000 career points milestone. Junior guard Xavier Roberson (13.7 ppg) and sophomore guard Mychal Ammons (11.9 ppg, 7.9 rpg) are also owners of double-digit scoring averages.
UALR came up short in its two-point loss to Louisiana Tech after being outscored 20-3 in second chance points and allowing the Bulldogs to drain 20- of-25 free-throw attempts in the second half. The Trojans connected on 44.6 percent of their field goals and limited their opponent to 36.2 percent shooting, but it was not enough to overcome Louisiana Tech's 45-33 advantage in the rebounding battle. John Gillon scored a team-high 15 points in the loss. The freshman guard is leading UALR with 11.5 points per game. Junior forward Will Neighbour is also a key player with 11.1 points and 6.1 boards per game.
Price served as an assistant under Arrow before pursuing a head coaching career, so he should be able to keep the system running without experiencing too much change. The Jaguars are beatable, but UALR has to shut down Rubit inside or he will carry the hosts to another decision.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Arkansas-Little Rock 68, South Alabama 66
12/22 10:30:47 ET