Arkansas State (13-8) at South Alabama (7-16)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, February 13, 8:05 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Mitchell Center (10,041) -- Mobile, Alabama. Television: None. Home Record: ASU 7-2, USA 7-5. Away Record: ASU 6-6, USA 0-9. Neutral Record: ASU 0-0, USA 0-2. Conference Record: ASU 6-4, USA 1-9. Series Record: Arkansas State leads, 20-17.
GAME NOTES: The Arkansas State Red Wolves will try to jostle for even more favorable positioning in the Sun Belt Conference standings when they take on the South Alabama Jaguars at the Mitchell Center on Thursday night.
Arkansas State is still alive in the Sun Belt title chase, although everyone is still trailing Georgia State (10-0) and its perfect league mark. The Red Wolves have won three of their last four bouts to move to 6-4 against the rest of the league, good enough for third place in the standings. They will battle Louisiana, a team they lead by just a half game, next.
South Alabama has no shot to make a run at the conference crown. The Jaguars are a dismal 1-9 against Sun Belt foes and just 7-16 overall. They have lost six straight outings, with road dates against Western Kentucky and Texas State next on the schedule.
When these teams met in early January, ASU claimed a 72-60 victory at home. The Red Wolves have won three straight against South Alabama, and own a 20-17 edge in the all-time series as a result.
Arkansas State showed just how serious a contender it is in the Sun Belt by posting a 72-58 victory over Western Kentucky, the team currently in second place in the league standings, on Monday night. The Red Wolves limited the Hilltoppers to 37 percent shooting and outscored them, 24-8, off turnovers.
The Red Wolves did not move the ball as well as they normally do in the recent victory. as the Sun Belt's top team in assists (14.2 apg) had only 12 helpers. Still, Arkansas State's ability to share the wealth has helped it average a solid 77.1 ppg on just under 45 percent shooting. Kirk Van Slyke (16 ppg, 6.2 rpg) and Melvin Johnson III (14.8 ppg) are the two top scoring options, while Cameron Holden (8.5 ppg, 3 apg) leads in assists. Johnson III finished with 22 points, while Van Slyke was limited to just two points against WKU. Golden had two assists and 11 points.
Augustine Rubit scored a team-high 25 points as South Alabama came up just short against Troy in a 79-74 defeat last Thursday. The Jaguars hit on 48.3 percent from the field, but they were outscored 20-8 on 20 fewer attempts from the free-throw line.
South Alabama does not have the offensive punch that Arkansas State is blessed with. The Jaguars are netting only 68.8 ppg and shooting the worst percentage from the field in the Sun Belt (.402). The only area where they do excel is on the glass, as they lead the league in rebounding (37.7 rpg). Rubit (16.7 ppg, 9.4 rpg) is an all-league performer trapped on a team that gives him very little support. Antoine Allen (10.8 ppg) is the only other player averaging in double figures, but he is only shooting 36.2 percent from the floor. Mychal Ammons (8.7 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 1.1 bpg) lends help in the frontcourt, and he ranks fifth in the conference in both rebounds and blocks.
Arkansas State may have some trouble on the inside against South Alabama, but its superior backcourt should be able to control the pace and keep the Red Wolves moving in the right direction.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Arkansas State 73, South Alabama 65
02/13 10:35:45 ET