Georgia State (8-6) at South Alabama (6-8)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, January 4, 5:05 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Mitchell Center (10,000) -- Mobile, Alabama. Television: None. Home Record: GSU 5-0, USA 6-2. Away Record: GSU 2-5, USA 0-4. Neutral Record: GSU 1-1, USA 0-2. Conference Record: GSU 1-0, USA 0-1. Series Record: South Alabama leads, 13-5.
GAME NOTES: The Georgia State Panthers shoot for a sixth straight win, as they embark on a Sun Belt Conference cat fight with the South Alabama Jaguars at the Mitchell Center.
Georgia State, which used to compete in the Colonial Athletic Association, has won six of the last seven outings, with the lone setback being an overtime affair versus Southern Miss nearly a month ago. The team kicked off the new calendar year in style with an 81-72 win over Troy in the conference opener on Thursday night.
While the Panthers have been cruising along for the last several weeks, USA has been headed in the opposite direction. The Jags were defeated by Western Kentucky in the league opener on Thursday, 58-56, which means the program has dropped four in a row and six of the last seven overall. The single victory during the stretch was an 82-73 final versus Dillard, which means the last win over a Division I opponent was back in November.
South Alabama leads the all-time series by a count of 13-5, although the Panthers are the ones who came out on top in the most recent meeting last season by a score of 75-73. The teams are also slated to meet at the end of this month to complete the season series.
With 55.2 percent shooting from the floor in the first half, the Panthers built a double-digit lead at the break against Troy and then held on for the home win on Thursday. R.J. Hunter was responsible not just for 25 points but also a staggering seven steals, while Ryan Harrow tacked on 20 points. Curtis Washington pitched in another 10 points as the team survived with only 22 rebounds by forcing a monstrous 23 turnovers by the Trojans.
Harrow has gotten away with shooting only 27.3 percent behind the 3-point line through 14 games in order to arrive at 20.2 ppg. Despite his poor aim out on the perimeter, Harrow remains on the outside much of the time in order to find teammates in scoring position, resulting in 64 assists. Hunter (18.1 ppg) has performed much better beyond the arc for the squad, connecting on 38.7 percent, while Manny Atkins (13.4 ppg) takes it up yet another notch with 49.2 percent shooting from distance.
In a game that featured 10 ties and nine lead changes, the Jags found themselves on the wrong side of the ledger after 40 minutes of action versus Western Kentucky. South Alabama, which at one point had led by as many as eight points, shot only 4-of-15 beyond the arc and turned the ball over 16 times as Mychal Ammons produced a team-best 15 points. Antoine Allen and Augustine Rubit both tallied 10 points, the latter also clearing nine rebounds in the losing effort.
Rubit is by far the top scoring threat for the Jaguars on a regular basis, posting 16.8 ppg as he shoots almost as well from 3-point range (.448) as he does the field overall (.453). Rubit is also the top man on the glass with 9.5 rpg which helps to give the squad a slight edge (2.2 rpg) over the competition. Ammons (10.4 ppg) and Allen (10.3 ppg) also shoot better than 40 percent out on the perimeter for a group that has connected on 113 triples, compared to just 60 for the opposition.
The fact that South Alabama is playing at home certainly helps the cause today, but knowing that the Jags have not defeated a D-I opponents in more than a month doesn't exactly instill confidence in the hosts.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Georgia State 71, South Alabama 63
01/04 10:37:46 ET