Troy (11-20) vs. Florida Atlantic (14-17)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, March 8, 9:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Summit Arena (6,200) -- Hot Springs, Arkansas. Television: Sun Belt Network. Home Record: Troy 8-7, FAU 10-4. Away Record: Troy 2-12, FAU 3-13. Neutral Record: Troy 1-1, FAU 1-0. Conference Record: Troy 6-14, FAU 9-11. Series Record: Troy leads, 19-13.
GAME NOTES: The first round of the 2013 Sun Belt Conference Tournament concludes on Friday night, as the 10th-seeded Troy Trojans square off against the seventh-seeded Florida Atlantic Owls at Summit Arena in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
Awaiting the winner in the quarterfinals on Saturday night is second-seeded Arkansas State.
Troy has endured a disappointing season to say the least, going 11-20 overall and just 6-14 in league play, but it has been especially bad in recent weeks. Following a 53-49 home loss to South Alabama in the regular-season finale, the Trojans extended their losing streak to five games.
Meanwhile, FAU comes into the tournament on a high note, having won back-to- back games to close out the campaign, including a 77-60 triumph over FIU last Saturday. The strong finish allowed the Owls to improve to 14-17 overall and 9-11 in the league.
FAU has already defeated Troy twice this season, most recently at home on Jan. 17 (80-59), although the Trojans still lead the all-time series by a 19-13 margin.
Despite opening up a nine-point halftime lead on Senior Night, Troy shot just 8-of-27 in the final 20 minutes as it was eclipsed by South Alabama down the stretch. The team shot just 35.2 percent from the field, but Emil Jones celebrated his final game at Trojan Arena with an outstanding performance, recording 22 points, eight rebounds, four assists and three steals. Westley Hinton came off the bench to tally 10 points on a perfect 4-of-4 effort from the field. It's easy to see why the Trojans have suffered so much in the standings this season, as they rank 10th out of 11 SBC teams in points per game (61.4) and scoring margin (-5.0), and last in field goal percentage (.396). Jones contributes across the board with 11.3 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 2.9 and 1.7 spg, while Hunter Williams brings 10.3 ppg to the table, albeit on less than 37 percent field goal shooting.
The Owls closed out the season in style with a 17-point win over their Sunshine State rival FIU by shooting 50 percent from the floor, and they were led by a career-high 28-point effort from Stefan Moody, who has now scored 25 points or more in three of the last five games. Greg Gantt added 16 points, while Andre Mattison logged a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Gantt finished the regular season as the SBC's top scorer, pouring 21.2 ppg thanks to lofty showings from 3-point range (83-of-213, .390) and the foul line (119-of-148, .804), which helped him earn First Team All-Sun Belt honors. Moody's year-end hot streak allowed him to jump to 15.2 ppg and land a spot on the All-SBC Second Team, but no other player averages in double figures for FAU, which nets only 64.9 ppg while allowing 67.2 ppg.
While both teams have been far from ideal this season, FAU has relied on its star power to avoid prolonged periods of futility, which is more than can be said about Troy. The Trojans play solid defense, and that could slow down the Owls' playmakers, but they ultimately won't have enough fire power to take advantage.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Florida Atlantic 66, Troy 62
03/08 10:35:03 ET