FIU (11-8) at South Alabama (10-8)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Sunday, January 27, 5:05 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Mitchell Center (10,041) -- Mobile, Alabama. Television: None. Home Record: FIU 6-2, USA 5-3. Away Record: FIU 5-6, USA 5-3. Neutral Record: FIU 0-0, USA 0-2. Conference Record: FIU 6-4, USA 7-3. Series Record: South Alabama leads, 17-10.
GAME NOTES: Two of the hottest team in the Sun Belt Conference are set to square off on Sunday, as the South Alabama Jaguars entertain the FIU Panthers at the Mitchell Center in Mobile.
Following an 80-75 win at Louisiana on Thursday, FIU's current win streak sits at three, and it has won seven of eight since the calendar turned to 2013. The Panthers' hot streak has allowed them to overcome a lackluster 4-7 start to the season, as they now sit at 11-8 overall and 6-4 in conference.
South Alabama is also fresh off a Thursday night triumph, taking down Western Kentucky, 65-57, for its third win in its last four contests. The Jaguars have been up-and-down on the season (10-8), but they have played their best ball against conference foes, as they currently sit second in the East Division at 7-3.
South Alabama has a 17-10 advantage in the all-time series with FIU, which includes a 9-3 mark in Mobile.
Despite being outshot on the night, FIU was able to capture a five-point victory at Louisiana by winning the turnover battle (17-11) and by outscoring the Ragin' Cajuns at the foul line (19-9). Freshman Jerome Frink scored 20 points on 7-of-14 shooting from the field, Tymell Murphy was a beast in the paint with 16 points and 16 rebounds, and Marco Porcher Jimenez provided a spark off the bench with 13 points but hitting three 3-pointers. The Panthers have been able to amass more wins than losses this season, despite scoring fewer points (69.9 ppg) than they allow (71.3 ppg) on average. Murphy has been a mainstay in the frontcourt, tallying 15.4 ppg, 7.7 rpg and more than a block and a steal per contest, all while ranking first in the conference in field goal percentage (.601). Malik Smith is a strong outside complement to Murphy, draining 58-of-157 from beyond the arc en route to 14.6 ppg, and Frink adds 10.1 ppg and 7.3 rpg to the mix.
South Alabama has had much more efficient nights from the floor than it did on Thursday (.404), but it held on for the home win by holding Western Kentucky to less than 37 percent shooting and forcing 17 turnovers. It was another day at the office for Augustine Rubit, who recorded his 10th double-double of the season with 19 points and 11 rebounds, while also swatting away four shots. The junior forward is arguably the league's most imposing force, as he ranks second in scoring (19.4 ppg), first in rebounding (10.8 rpg), and fifth in blocks (1.5 bpg), all while shooting in excess of 50 percent from the field. Also scoring 19 points in the triumph was Antoine Allen, while Mychal Ammons finished with 10 points and seven rebounds. Ammons is a solid frontcourt partner for Rubit, logging 11.1 ppg, 7.3 rpg and 1.0 bpg. Allen tacks on 8.9 ppg, but his running mate in the backcourt Freddie Goldstein (8.1 ppg) has been lost for the season with a broken clavicle. As a team, no one in the Sun Belt puts up more points per game than do the Jaguars (70.3 ppg).
Both teams have ample talent at the forward position, so a battle down low is to be expected. In the end however, South Alabama has the game's best player in Rubit and the home court advantage, giving it a narrow edge.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: South Alabama 74, FIU 72
01/27 10:32:17 ET