Louisiana (11-18) at Arkansas-Little Rock (15-14)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, February 28, 8:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Jack Stephens Center (5,600) -- Little Rock, Arkansas. Television: None. Home Record: Louisiana 10-5, UALR 11-3. Away Record: Louisiana 1-13, UALR 3-10. Neutral Record: Louisiana 0-0, UALR 1-1. Conference Record: Louisiana 7-11, UALR 9-9. Series Record: Louisiana leads, 22-16.
GAME NOTES: The Arkansas-Little Rock Trojans will try to halt their season- long losing streak on Thursday night, as they play host to the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns in Sun Belt Conference action at the Jack Stephens Center.
Louisiana played its home finale last Saturday and suffered a shootout loss to Western Kentucky, 88-77, to snap a modest two-game win streak. The Cajuns' season as a whole has been disappointing, the team going 11-18 overall and 7-11 in the Sun Belt, and that's been especially true on the road where they've lost 13 of 14.
UALR sat atop the SBC's West Division at the beginning of February, but it has lost its chance at winning the division and earning the No. 2 seed in the upcoming conference tournament by dropping four straight games. The Trojans lost at Florida Atlantic last Saturday, 73-59, to dip to 15-14 overall and 9-9 in league competition.
Louisiana claimed the first matchup with UALR this season, 79-70, on Dec. 29, to extend its lead in the all-time series to 22-16.
The Cajuns found themselves down by as many as 19 points in the first half of their game against Western Kentucky, and they could never fully recover as they were eventually saddled with the 11-point defeat. Despite putting up 77 points, they had no answer for the Hilltoppers who shot 50 percent from the field and drained 10 3-pointers. Elfrid Payton did what he could to lift his team to victory with a career-high 31 points. Shawn Long was active in the paint with 14 points and 13 rebounds, while Bryant Mbamalu and Elridge Moore scored 11 and 10 points, respectively. The game was a microcosm of Louisiana's season, as it rarely has trouble putting points on the board (71.0 ppg), but has been plagued by the conference's worst scoring defense (73.7 ppg). Payton is not only the squad's top scorer with 16.0 ppg, but he stuffs the stat sheet with 5.6 rpg, 5.2 apg and 2.4 spg, the latter two ranking first in the league. Long is among the league leaders in scoring (15.6 ppg), rebounding (10.4 rpg) and blocks (2.0 bpg), while Mbamalu rounds of the SBC's most potent scoring trio with 13.8 ppg.
The Trojans put forth an uncharacteristically poor effort in their latest contest, as they shot just 33.3 percent from the field while allowing FAU to net 48.1 percent of its total shots in a game they never led. Leroy Isler finished with 14 points and seven rebounds to lead the team, while Josh Hagins was the only other player to reach double figures with 10 points. UALR does very little to stand out at either end of the court, as its offensive production (.422 FG percentage, 66.1 ppg) is nearly identical to what it yields on average (.423, 66.3 ppg). Instead of relying on star power like Louisiana, UALR employs a deep rotation of scorers, with nine players averaging at least 4.8 ppg. Will Neighbour has been solid in the frontcourt with 10.8 ppg, 6.9 rpg and 1.3 spg, all while shooting 45.5 percent from the field. John Gillon brings 9.7 ppg to the table, netting nearly 40 percent of his 3-point attempts in the process.
UALR has picked the wrong time to hit a cold streak with the SBC Tournament right around the corner, but with its success at home (11-3) coupled with the Cajuns' road woes, it should be able to get back on track in this one.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Arkansas-Little Rock 73, Louisiana 69
02/28 10:36:41 ET