ULM (3-10) at South Alabama (8-8)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, January 17, 8:05 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Mitchell Center (10,041) -- Mobile, Alabama. Television: None. Home Record: ULM 2-4, USA 3-3. Away Record: ULM 1-6, USA 5-3. Neutral Record: ULM 0-0, USA 0-2. Conference Record: ULM 2-5, USA 5-3. Series Record: South Alabama leads, 9-4.
GAME NOTES: The South Alabama Jaguars begin a three-game homestand on Thursday night when they take on the ULM Warhawks in a Sun Belt Conference matchup at the Mitchell Center.
Although ULM has already matched its win total from a dreadful 2011-12 campaign (3-26), its 3-10 record is anything but impressive. It has managed to claim a pair of victories against conference foes, including an 81-68 decision at North Texas on Jan. 5, but it has since lost three of four.
The Warhawks hosted first-place Middle Tennessee last Saturday and were handed a 66-57 defeat, as they were dominated on the boards (40-22), and made good on only 12-of-21 tries from the foul line. Despite his teammates' struggles, Amos Olatayo put together a career-day with 24 points on 9-of-15 accuracy from the field (including 3-of-6 from 3-point range). Jayon James finished with 10 points and five assists in the setback, while R.J. McCray also scored 10 points.
South Alabama has been mediocre this season, registering an 8-8 record, and it has alternated wins and losses in each of its last six contests. Things have played out better in Sun Belt action however, as it sits with a 5-3 league ledger.
The Jaguars took on North Texas last Saturday and put forth a rather lackluster effort, shooting just 28.1 percent from the floor and a season-low 51.7 percent from the foul line in a game they never led. Augustine Rubit nearly logged a double-double in the setback with 12 points and nine rebounds, while Freddie Goldstein also scored a dozen points, albeit on just 5-of-18 field goal shooting.
South Alabama defeated ULM on the road on Jan. 3, 77-72, to improve to 9-4 in the all-time series.
ULM has been the least-effective team in the Sun Belt this season, as it ranks last in scoring offense (59.2 ppg) and ninth in scoring defense (69.8 ppg), for a league-worst scoring margin of minus-10.7 ppg. Additionally, it also gets outrebounded by 7.5 rpg and commits nearly 16 turnovers per contest. Olatayo leads the way with 14.6 ppg, shooting nearly 50 percent from the floor in the process. Trent Mackey (10.7 ppg) has been strong from 3-point range (33-of-83), while James (10.4 ppg) is the team-leader in both rebounding (6.9 rpg), assists (4.7 apg), steals (1.5 spg) and turnovers (64).
Despite getting outshot by its opponents, 41.1 percent to 43.4 percent, South Alabama nets 70.6 ppg while allowing 69.8 ppg, thanks to a .698 free throw percentage and a plus-2.9 rebounding margin, both of which rank third in the league. The Jaguars are lucky enough to have perhaps the best player in the Sun Belt on their side in Rubit, who has been a double-double machine with his 19.3 ppg and 10.9 rpg. He also shoots 49.8 percent from the floor and has been effective from the foul line as well (96-of-122, .787). Mychal Ammons (11.2 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 1.1 bpg) helps give USA a solid frontcourt duo.
South Alabama has the clear advantage over ULM in the paint, and at home, it should have no issues dismissing the lackluster Warhawks.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: South Alabama 73, ULM 59
01/17 10:37:13 ET