Arkansas-Little Rock (15-12) at FIU (14-12)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, February 21, 7:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: U.S. Century Bank Arena (5,000) -- Miami, Florida. Television: None. Home Record: UALR 11-3, FIU 9-3. Away Record: UALR 3-8, FIU 5-9. Neutral Record: UALR 1-1, FIU 0-0. Conference Record: UALR 9-7, FIU 9-8. Series Record: Arkansas-Little Rock, 17-8.
GAME NOTES: The Arkansas-Little Rock Trojans begin a two-game jaunt through the Sunshine State on Thursday night, as they visit U.S. Century Bank Arena for a Sun Belt Conference clash with the FIU Panthers.
UALR has pieced together a winning season to this point, logging a 15-12 overall record, which includes a 9-7 mark in Sun Belt action, but in recent weeks is has started to slip a bit in the standings with losses in three of its last four, including a 66-61 setback versus Middle Tennessee last Saturday. The Trojans began the year 0-7 on the road, but they have won three of their last four away from Little Rock.
FIU is also in the midst of a positive season at 14-12 overall and 9-8 in conference. The team has won three of its last five contests, with its latest triumph coming at home over Western Kentucky on Saturday, 87-82, to improve to 9-3 at U.S. Century Bank Arena.
UALR claimed the first matchup between the two teams back on Jan. 12, 88-76, in Little Rock to take a 17-8 lead in the all-time series.
The Trojans fought hard against first-place Middle Tennessee over the weekend, even cutting their double-digit deficit to just four with 1:17 to play, but they could not get over the hump as they were saddled with another loss. The team put forth a poor performance, both from the field (.393) and the foul line (.591), and 17 turnovers didn't help matters either. Leading the way in the setback was Michael Javes and Ben Dillard, both of whom tallied 12 points. On the season, UALR's scoring offense (66.9 ppg) and scoring defense (66.1 ppg) might not seem impressive, but it is still one of only five Sun Belt teams with a positive scoring margin (+0.8). Will Neighbour acts as the team's catalyst and is one of the league's best forwards, averaging 10.9 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 1.3 spg and 1.0 bpg. John Gillon nets 9.7 ppg thanks in large part to his 40.8 percent showing from 3-point range (31-of-76), and Hagins adds 8.3 ppg and 3.0 apg to the mix.
FIU was plagued by a poor defensive performance last Saturday, as it allowed WKU to make 50 percent of its field goal attempts, but luckily it too had a hot hand, shooting 27-of-47 from the floor (.574) and 25-of-33 from the foul line (.758) on its way to the shootout win. Tymell Murphy and Jerome Frink shined in the frontcourt as each put up 20 points, with the former adding six rebounds, four steals and two blocks to his stat line. Malik Smith poured in 17 points, and Cameron Bell made his presence felt by coming off the bench to net 10 points. The Panthers' latest game was a microcosm for their season as a whole, as they oftentimes have difficulty stopping teams from lighting up the scoreboard (71.0 ppg), but their effort at the offensive end (70.2 ppg) helps them stay competitive. Murphy (15.5 ppg, 7.2 rpg) is the shooter in the conference, making 59 percent of his field goal attempts, and he is also an outstanding defender with 1.8 spg and 1.2 bpg. Smith is the top threat out on the perimeter with 13.9 ppg, and Frink is putting together a fine freshman campaign with 10.4 ppg and 6.5 rpg.
In a vacuum, UALR is a more disciplined and efficient team than FIU, but it has not performed well away from home this season, which gives the Panthers the slight edge in this one.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: FIU 70, Arkansas-Little Rock 68
02/21 10:31:51 ET