FIU (9-7) at Louisiana Tech (13-3)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, January 11, 8 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Thomas Assembly Center (8,098) -- Ruston, Louisiana. Television: None. Home Record: FIU 5-2, La Tech 6-1. Away Record: FIU 3-3, La Tech 4-1. Neutral Record: FIU 1-2, La Tech 3-1. Conference Record: FIU 1-0, La Tech 1-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: The Louisiana Tech Bulldogs will attempt to extend their winning streak to six games on Saturday night, as they close out a three-game homestand against the FIU Panthers in a Conference USA showdown.
FIU opened up C-USA action on Thursday night by capturing an impressive 71-60 road victory over Rice to snap a three-game losing streak. It was the first win away from home this season for the Panthers, who sit with a 9-7 overall record.
Louisiana Tech also began league play on Thursday night to positive results, taking down Florida Atlantic at home by a convincing 84-64 final to extend its winning streak. The Bulldogs, who are looking to match their six-game spurt from earlier in the season, are a stellar 13-3 overall, including 6-1 at Thomas Assembly Center.
The Panthers and the Bulldogs have never before played one another. This is FIU's first season as a member of C-USA after coming over from the Sun Belt Conference.
FIU endured a tight, back-and-forth battle for much of its latest contest against Rice before pulling away late by finishing the game on an 8-0 run to capture the 11-point victory. It enjoyed a strong field goal shooting night at 26-of-52 (.500), with Tymell Murphy acting as the catalyst with 22 points and 15 rebounds. Dennis Mavin was also stellar, tallying 16 points, nine rebounds and four assists.
On the season, the Panthers shoot an impressive 45.4 percent from the field while holding their opponents to just 41.6 percent shooting, but they score just 71.2 ppg and allow nearly as many points at 70.2 ppg. The team's disappointing -2.7 turnover margin plays a big part in leveling the playing field for its opponents. Its strength clearly come in the frontcourt, where Murphy (16.4 ppg, 7.9 rpg) and Rakeem Buckles (13.8 ppg, 9.9 rpg) have played well on both ends of the floor, with the duo also combining for 50 blocks and 39 steals. Raymond Taylor (12.2 ppg) and Mavin (11.4 ppg) are also integral pieces to the puzzle despite each shooting less than 38 percent from the field.
The Bulldogs were actually outshot from the field by FAU in their C-USA opener earlier in the week, 43.5 percent to 43.1 percent, but they still cruised to a 20-point victory by earning extra possessions with advantages in the rebounding (44-39) and turnover battles (19-9) while also outscoring the Owls at the foul line, 18-6. Michale Kyser tallied a double-double with 17 points and 12 rebounds, Alex Hamilton scored 14, Cordarius Johnson came off the bench to net 12 and Chris Anderson added 10.
Louisiana Tech's outstanding record has been well represented in its statistical production, as it shoots 47.6 percent from the field for 86.0 ppg (10th in the nation) while also playing outstanding defense (.398, 67.3 ppg). Great margins in terms of rebounding (+5.2) and turnovers (+4.7) certainly go a long way in supporting these numbers. Leading scorer Raheem Appleby (16.1 ppg) needed to leave Thursday's game with an ankle injury and is questionable for this contest. In the event that Appleby misses time, Hamilton (14.9 ppg), Anderson (10.6 ppg), Johnson (9.5 ppg) and Kyser (7.0 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 4.1 bpg) will be asked to step up their play.
Louisiana Tech showed on Thursday night that even without its top scorer, it has more than enough firepower to remain a strong threat on its home floor. Regardless of Appleby's status, figure for the Bulldogs to get the best of the Panthers.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Louisiana Tech 80, FIU 71
01/11 12:34:58 ET