Louisiana (11-19) at ULM (4-21)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, March 2, 5 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Fant-Ewing Coliseum (7,085) -- Monroe, Louisiana. Television: None. Home Record: Louisiana 10-5, ULM 3-8. Away Record: Louisiana 1-14, ULM 1-13. Neutral Record: Louisiana 0-0, ULM 0-0. Conference Record: Louisiana 7-12, ULM 3-16. Series Record: Louisiana leads, 47-19.
GAME NOTES: Pelican State rivals close out the 2012-13 regular season in Monroe on Saturday afternoon, as the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns venture into Fant-Ewing Coliseum for a Sun Belt Conference clash with the ULM Warhawks.
Louisiana is winding down a rather lackluster campaign, as it is just 11-19 overall and 7-12 in league play. The Cajuns have lost back-to-back games to Western Kentucky (88-77) and Arkansas-Little Rock (77-68), and they have won just one of 15 road matchups this season.
On the other hand, ULM has been far and away the SBC's worst team, going 4-21 overall and locking up last place and the No. 11 seed in the upcoming SBC Tournament with a 3-16 conference mark. The Warhawks have lost four in a row and 13 of their last 14, including a 67-58 setback at home against FIU on Thursday night.
Louisiana has a firm handle on the all-time series between these rivals, 47-19, which includes a 90-66 win in Lafayette on Feb. 10.
The Cajuns trailed UALR by double-digits at the half and could never fully recover, as they shot only 35 percent from the field on the evening, including 4-of-20 from 3-point range. Shawn Long finished with 19 points and eight rebounds, although he shot a modest 7-of-18 from the field. Alan-Michael Thompson scored 18 points, Elfrid Payton tallied 17 points, eight assists and three steals and Bryant Mbamalu chipped in 13 points, but the remaining six players who saw action combined for just one point. Scoring has rarely been a problem for Louisiana this season, as it ranks behind only first-place Middle Tennessee in scoring offense (70.9 ppg), although it is plagued by the conference's worst-ranked scoring defense (73.8 ppg). Payton is on the short list of contenders for the SBC Player of the Year. Not only does he register 16.1 ppg and 5.5 rpg, but he leads the league in both assists (5.3 apg) and steals (2.4 spg). Long is strong in the paint, ranking among the conference's best with 15.7 ppg, 10.3 rpg and 2.0 bpg, while Mbamalu rounds out the league's top scoring trio with 13.7 ppg on greater than 46 percent field goal efficiency.
ULM actually held a lead against FIU at the half, but its strong defensive play in the first 20 minutes all but disappeared down the stretch as the Panthers made nearly 58 percent of their total shots after the break. Trent Mackey was fantastic in defeat, shooting 7-of-10 from the field (including 3- of-5 from 3-point range) for 17 points. Amos Olatayo netted 15 points, and Jayon James dished out seven assists and hauled in nine rebounds. The Warhawks' horrific season has resulted in some pretty lackluster numbers, as they rank last in the league in scoring offense (59.9 ppg), scoring margin (-12.6), free-throw percentage (.579), field goal percentage defense (.467) and rebounding margin (-5.5). Their roster is top heavy, with Olatayo (15.9 ppg, 5.7 rpg), Mackey (11.0 ppg) and James (9.4 ppg) all having solid seasons. James stuffs the stat sheet elsewhere as well with 6.0 rpg, 5.1 rpg and 1.2 spg, but he also turns the ball over nearly five times per outing.
In terms of talent alone, Louisiana has ULM's number without question, but the Cajuns have been terrible away from home, and even though the Warhawks' season is all but lost, they'll be able to take advantage of the Louisiana's road woes to end the regular season on a high note.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: ULM 65, Louisiana 64
03/02 10:39:27 ET