FIU (15-12) at ULM (4-20)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, February 28, 8:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Fant-Ewing Coliseum (7,085) -- Monroe, Louisiana. Television: None. Home Record: FIU 10-3, ULM 3-7. Away Record: FIU 5-9, ULM 1-13. Neutral Record: FIU 0-0, ULM 0-0. Conference Record: FIU 10-8, ULM 3-15. Series Record: FIU leads, 5-2.
GAME NOTES: The FIU Panthers have made the trek to Monroe for Thursday night's Sun Belt Conference clash with the ULM Warhawks.
FIU has won back-to-back games over Western Kentucky (87-82) and Arkansas- Little Rock (65-52) to improve to 15-12 on the season. The Owls are 10-8 in conference, and with one more victory they'll set a school record for most league wins in a season as a member of the Sun Belt.
Meanwhile, ULM is bringing up the rear in the SBC West Division for the second consecutive season at a lowly 3-15. The Warhawks have dropped three in a row and 12 of their last 13 overall, most recently losing in blowout fashion to Middle Tennessee on Saturday (87-46), to fall to a woeful 4-20 for the season.
FIU claimed a 76-73 decision in the first meeting between these two teams on Feb. 2 in Miami to extend its lead in the all-time series to 5-2.
Despite committing an unsightly 24 turnovers, FIU was able to roll to a 13- point victory last weekend by shooting 46.8 percent from the field and 88.9 percent from the field, while holding the Trojans below 40 percent from the field. Sparking the team in a reserve roll was Cameron Bell, who tallied 17 points, eight rebounds and three steals in just 23 minutes of action off the bench. Jerome Frink netted 13 points, Deric Hill scored 12 points and Tymell Murphy tacked on 11.
Even though the Panthers have a sub par scoring defense, ranking ninth in the league at 70.3 ppg allowed, they are able to make up for it by owning the third-ranked scoring offense, which accounts for 70.0 ppg while ranking in the league's top-three in field goal percentage (.431) and free-throw percentage (.706). Murphy leads the way with 15.3 ppg and 7.1 rpg, while causing havoc at the defensive end with 1.8 spg and 1.1 bpg. He is also the SBC's top shooter at 59.2 percent. Malik Smith does the bulk of his damage out on the perimeter with 13.5 ppg, while Frink is in the midst of a solid freshman campaign with averages of 10.5 ppg and 6.4 rpg.
ULM was overmatched in every possible way in its embarrassing 41-point loss at Middle Tennessee the last time out, getting outshot from the field (52.6 percent to 37.2 percent), while also losing the rebounding (35-27) and turnover (19-9) battles. Amos Olatayo was the lone player to net in double figures in the loss with 10 points to go along with seven rebounds.
The Warhawks have grown accustomed to lopsided affairs, as they score 60 ppg and surrender 72.8 ppg for a scoring margin (-12.8) nearly three times worse than any other team in the conference. Despite the consistent futility shown by his team, Olatayo has overcome the odds to become one of the league's most effective forwards, shooting 46.5 percent from the floor for 15.9 ppg to pair with nearly six rebounds per contest. Trent Mackey (10.8 ppg) has drained 63 3-pointers and is actually a better shooter from beyond the arc (.434) than he is from the field overall (.391). Jayon James tallies 9.5 ppg, 5.8 rpg and 5.0 apg, but he is also one of the most turnover-prone players in the nation with 117 miscues (4.9 pg).
FIU hasn't fared well away from home this season (5-9), but it owns a considerable advantage in the frontcourt against ULM, and that should be more than enough for the Panthers to dismiss the hapless Warhawks.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: FIU 73, ULM 64
02/28 10:36:23 ET