South Alabama (16-10) at Western Kentucky (15-14)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, February 28, 8 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: E.A. Diddle Arena (7,500) -- Bowling Green, Kentucky. Television: HSSN, ESPN3.com. Home Record: USA 10-3, WKU 10-3. Away Record: USA 6-5, WKU 4-9. Neutral Record: USA 0-2, WKU 1-2. Conference Record: USA 13-5, WKU 9-9. Series Record: South Alabama leads, 33-29.
GAME NOTES: A Sun Belt Conference clash in on tap for Thursday night, as the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers welcome the South Alabama Jaguars to E.A. Diddle Arena.
After suffering a demoralizing 85-50 loss to Middle Tennessee on Feb. 21, South Alabama bounced back to post a 69-57 win in its home finale against North Texas last Saturday. The Jaguars have won eight of their last 10 contests to improve to 16-10 overall, and at 13-5 in conference, it is in second place in the SBC's East Division. They have locked down the No. 3 seed for next week's conference tournament.
WKU has rebounded nicely from a three-game losing streak with back-to-back wins over ULM (75-57) and Louisiana (88-77). The recent triumphs have brought the Hilltoppers even in league play (9-9), and above .500 overall (15-14).
South Alabama claimed a 65-57 decision over WKU at home on Jan. 24 for its third straight win in the series, which it now leads by a 33-29 margin.
Although the Jaguars failed to put forth their best effort from the field (.403) or beyond the arc (.235), they managed to make 15-of-16 at the foul line and never trailed North Texas as a result. Mychal Ammons poured in a game-high 18 points, Antoine Allen scored 12 and Wendell Wright pitched in 10 points off the bench. Javier Carter also put up 10 points and was a crucial component in the paint with 12 rebounds and six blocks, and while Augustine Rubit struggled from the field (3-of-13), he still ripped down 15 boards. On the season, South Alabama ranks in the middle of the SBC pack in both scoring offense (69.3 ppg) and scoring defense (67.9 ppg), but its +1.4 scoring margin is strong enough for third in the league. Rubit has been a menace in the trenches with 19.0 ppg and 10.9 rpg (seventh in the nation). Ammons is a multi-facet swingman, tallying 11.5 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 1.0 bpg 1.0 spg and 23 3- pointers, while Carter is also effective down low with 6.2 rpg and 2.3 bpg.
The Hilltoppers pieced together one of their most impressive offensive performance of the season in their 11-point victory at Louisiana over the weekend, as they shot 50 percent from the field (including 10-of-20 from 3- point range) and 81.5 percent from the free-throw stripe while also winning the rebounding battle (38-30) and committing just nine turnovers. T.J. Price (23 points) and Jamal Crook (21 points, six assists) were both outstanding in the backcourt, while Brandon Harris (16 points, eight rebounds) and George Fant (15 points, nine rebounds) both made a difference down low. Price is the squad's top scoring option with 14.7 ppg, and his high number of 3-pointers (67) helps make up for a poor field goal percentage overall (.397). Crook (13.3 ppg, 4.4 apg) missed 11 games due to injury earlier in the season and WKU is clearly a much better team with him on the floor. Fant rounds out the unit's double-digit scorers with 12.6 ppg, while also adding 6.6 rpg and 1.0 bpg. As a team, WKU scores 67.3 ppg while surrendering 66.3 ppg.
South Alabama has been on a roll lately, and it is unlikely to let off the gas even with its postseason standing set in stone. Still, WKU is eager to build up a head of steam as it looks ahead to next week's tournament, and at home, it will find away to take care of the Jaguars.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Western Kentucky 70, South Alabama 68
02/28 10:36:33 ET