Arkansas-Little Rock (3-6) vs. Jacksonville State (5-8)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, December 20, 6 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Multi-Purpose Sports Complex (2,500) -- Tortola, British Virgin Islands. Television: None. Home Record: UALR 2-1, JSU 4-1. Away Record: UALR 1-5, JSU 1-7. Neutral Record: UALR 0-0, JSU 0-0. Conference Record: UALR 0-0, JSU 0-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: The opening round of the BVI Tropical Shootout tips off at the Multi-Purpose Sports Complex in the British Virgin Islands on Friday afternoon, as the Jacksonville State Gamecocks take on the Arkansas-Little Rock Trojans.
Awaiting the winner in Saturday's championship game will be the survivor of the Southern Miss/Coppin State matchup. The losers will play in the consolation game.
UALR has also not fared well in the early going, sporting a 3-6 record, but unlike Jacksonville State, it is trending in the wrong direction with losses in three of four. The Trojans put forth a great first-half effort at nationally-ranked Memphis last Friday, but lost control after intermission before ultimately losing, 73-59
At 5-8, Jacksonville State's first six weeks of the season has not gone smoothly, as it has a decisive split between its home (4-1) and road (1-7) success. The Gamecocks are on the upswing of late however, posting wins in two of their last three, including an 82-73 home victory over Central Michigan on Tuesday night.
This clash marks the first-ever meeting between these two schools in men's basketball.
The Trojans shocked Memphis through the first 20 minutes on their most recent game, as they carried a 31-24 lead into intermission after holding the Tigers to just 9-of-32 shooting in the first half, but they were thoroughly outmatched in the second half, getting outshoot from the field, 51.9 percent to 33.3 percent, on their way to the 14-point setback. Josh Hagins scored a team-high 17 points but was also plagued by five turnovers. Will Neighbour scored 15 points and helped out on the defensive end of the floor as well with three blocks and two steals. UALR has gotten used to lackluster shooting performances this season, as it makes good on less than 41 percent of its field goal tries for 72.4 points per game, which is 5.3 points fewer than it allows on the other end of the floor. Neighbour has been strong in the paint with 17.8 points and 7.2 rebounds per game while sporting strong percentages from the field (.558), 3-point range (.458) and the free-throw line (.796). Hagins (12.2 ppg) is the only other player to score in double figures on a nightly basis.
The Gamecocks rolled to a nine-point victory in their latest contest behind an impressive 54 percent field goal shooting performance, which included a 9- of-18 showing from 3-point range. Avery Moore played just 20 minutes off the bench but it was enough to lead the team in scoring with 19 points. Undra Mitchem netted 17 points, Darion Rackley tallied 16 points, five rebounds and four assists, and Teraes Clemmons chipped in 12 points to the winning effort. It was a rare outing for Jacksonville State, which shoots just 42.8 percent from the field this season for 67.2 points per game, and to make matters worse it allows its opponents to shoot 47.1 percent for 72.2 points per tilt. Rackley leads the way with 12.3 points per game despite shooting less than 27 percent from 3-point range. Moore (10.0 ppg) has been solid since missing the first eight games of the season, and Brian Williams (9.9 ppg) has handed out 45 assists paired with only 19 turnovers.
Neither team has performed up to expectations this season, but on a neutral floor the advantage goes to UALR, which proved a lot in the first half against Memphis and can lean upon Neighbour in the frontcourt.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Ark-Little Rock 77, Jacksonville State 74
12/20 10:31:26 ET