FIU (13-10) at North Texas (8-17)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, February 9, 8 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: The Super Pit (10,032) -- Denton, Texas. Television: None. Home Record: FIU 8-3, UNT 5-7. Away Record: FIU 5-7, UNT 1-9. Neutral Record: FIU 0-0, UNT 2-1. Conference Record: FIU 8-6, UNT 3-11. Series Record: North Texas leads, 11-4.
GAME NOTES: The North Texas Mean Green will close out a two-game homestand on Saturday night by trying to halt their season-long losing streak, as they host the FIU Panthers in a Sun Belt Conference matchup at The Super Pit.
FIU closed out the month of January by losing to two of the Sun Belt's best teams in heartbreaking fashion -- South Alabama (60-58) and Middle Tennessee (66-64) -- but since then it has responded with back-to-back wins. The Panthers most recently made easy work of instate rival Florida Atlantic, 84-65, to improve to 13-10 overall and 8-6 in conference.
After participating in each of the last three Sun Belt Conference Tournament championship games, it's difficult to call the 2012-13 season for North Texas (8-17, 3-11) anything other than a huge disappointment. The Mean Green have dropped five straight games, with their latest loss coming on Thursday night in a 70-59 final at home versus Western Kentucky.
North Texas holds a 11-4 advantage in the all-time series, but FIU won the first meeting between the two this season, capturing a 70-64 home decision on Jan. 17.
FIU closed out the first half against FAU with a 33-12 spurt to grab a 21- point lead at intermission, and its advantage was never in doubt the rest of the way. The Panthers shot 47.2 percent from the field on the night, but they also played great defense in holding the Owls to just 38 percent shooting while forcing 22 turnovers. Malik Smith led the way with 19 points while shooting 4-of-9 from 3-point range, and Tymell Murphy stuffed the stat sheet with 13 points, nine rebounds, six steals and three blocks. Jerome Frink added 12 points and two blocks, while Cameron Bell chipped in 10 points and five assists off the bench. The balanced effort at the offensive end was nothing new for FIU, which scores the second-most points in the conference (70.0 ppg), but it is also vulnerable on defense, yielding 70.3 ppg. Murphy has been outstanding in the frontcourt, shooting a conference-best 59 percent from the floor for 15.2 ppg, adding 7.5 rpg, 1.1 bpg and 1.7 spg as well. Smith nets 14.7 ppg thanks to his active nature from 3-point range (70-of-193), while Frink brings 10.2 ppg and 6.9 rpg to the table.
North Texas fell short against WKU earlier in the week by shooting a disappointing 33.9 percent from the field, which included a 4-of-17 showing from 3-point range. Alzee Williams was strong in the setback with 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting, while Tony Mitchell logged a double-double with 14 points and 13 rebounds. Jordan Williams (15 points) and Roger Franklin (12 points, seven rebounds) were also solid for the Mean Green, but the other four players who took the floor managed to score just one point between them. It's been a similar story all season long for UNT, as those four top scorers all average in double figures, but due to the team's poor depth, it averages just 66.1 ppg. Tony Mitchell leads the Sun Belt in blocks (2.6 bpg), but his other numbers (13.8 ppg, 8.4 rpg, .436 FG percentage) have been relatively underwhelming considering his sensational freshman campaign last season (14.7 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 3.0 bpg, .567 FG percentage). Jordan Williams (13.3 ppg) is hot on Mitchell's heels, while Franklin adds 10.7 ppg and 6.2 rpg and Alzee Williams nets 10.6 ppg.
North Texas has as much talent as any team in the conference, but it continues to under-perform, even at The Super Pit. With FIU back on the winning track, it shouldn't have a problem dismissing the Mean Green.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: FIU 71, North Texas 65
02/09 10:56:30 ET