Louisiana (15-12) at Denver (18-8)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, February 16th, 7:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Magness Arena (7,200) -- Denver, Colorado. Television: ROOT. Home Record: Louisiana 10-3, Denver 11-2. Away Record: Louisiana 4-8, Denver 7-6. Neutral Record: Louisiana 1-1, Denver 0-0. Conference Record: Louisiana 9-4, Denver 8-5. Series Record: Louisiana leads, 18-8.
GAME NOTES: The Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns and the Denver Pioneers are set face off this evening at Magness Arena, as both squads try to close the gap on first place in the Sun Belt Conference West Division standings.
Louisiana is enjoying a 15-12 season overall, and at 9-4 in the conference sits just a half game behind Arkansas-Little Rock for first place in the West. The Cajuns have been hot of late, surging past five of their last six opponents, with their latest triumph coming in thrilling fashion as they defeated Arkansas State in overtime, 68-65.
While Denver sports the second-best overall record in the Sun Belt at 18-8, it sits in third place in the West with an 8-5 league ledger. After getting off to one of the best starts in school history, the Pioneers have lost four of their last seven, though notched an impressive road win at FIU last Saturday, 77-63.
Louisiana leads the all-time series with Denver, 18-8, although the Pioneers have won two of the last three meetings.
This game features two of the four Sun Belt teams that own a positive scoring margin on the season, with Louisiana ranking fourth (+3.0) by scoring 70.2 ppg and allowing 67.2 ppg. Though the Cajuns had a modest game last Saturday by shooting 44 percent from the floor, they managed to hit 8-of-12 three-point attempts while holding Arkansas State to 41.7 percent field goal efficiency. Bryant Mbamalu continued his impressive play of late, tallying 16 points and though he averages just 7.7 ppg, he's turned in 17 ppg in the last three outings. The Cajuns don't have a go-to guy on offense, but instead rely on several different players to produce. Josh Brown (10.8 ppg, 6.4 rpg) and Kadeem Coleby (10.2 ppg, 5.1 rpg) pace the attack, while J.J. Thomas (9.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg) and Darshawn McClellan (9.3 ppg, 5.7 rpg) also contribute on a nightly basis. Louisiana has difficulty taking care of the basketball, laying claim to a turnover margin of -2.19.
While Denver hasn't been nearly as impressive on offense (68.1 ppg) as Louisiana has been this year, it makes up for it with its second-ranked defense (61.5 ppg), resulting in a scoring margin of +6.7, which is second only to Middle Tennessee in the conference. The Pioneers have been one of the nation's most efficient three-point shooting teams at 40.1 percent, and continued that trend against FIU, draining 11-of-25 long-range attempts. Brett Olson paced the squad with 19 points by hitting five treys, while Chris Udofia added 17 points and a season-high seven assists. Udofia continues his reign atop the Sun Belt scoring list (15 ppg) while also leading the team in rebounding (5.3 rpg), assists (3.0 apg) and blocks (2.4 bpg). Brian Stafford scores 14.1 ppg, and he ranks first in the conference in three-pointers made (62) and three-point percentage (.463). Royce O'Neale adds 10.1 ppg and 5.2 rpg to the mix, and all three of Denver's top scorers connect on more than 50 percent of their field goal attempts.
With only a handful of regular-season games remaining, the loser of this bout will have a slim chance at finishing in first place in the West. Both teams are sure to bring their "A-game", but Denver's track record at home (11-2) should be enough to lift it to victory.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Denver 70, Louisiana 66
02/16 10:35:45 ET