Louisiana (9-16) at South Alabama (14-9)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, February 14, 8:05 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Mitchell Center (10,041) -- Mobile, Alabama. Television: None. Home Record: Louisiana 8-4, USA 8-3. Away Record: Louisiana 1-12, USA 6-4. Neutral Record: Louisiana 0-0, USA 0-2. Conference Record: Louisiana 5-9, USA 11-4. Series Record: Louisiana leads, 24-22.
GAME NOTES: The South Alabama Jaguars will attempt to extend their winning streak to a season-high four games on Thursday night, as they welcome the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns to the Mitchell Center for a Sun Belt Conference showdown.
Louisiana is in the midst of a disappointing season, as it sits with just a 9-16 overall record and a 5-9 mark in Sun Belt action. The Cajuns have been playing better recently however, winning two of their last three bouts, including a 90-66 decision over ULM on Sunday, but both of those triumphs came at home. They are a horrific 1-12 on the road this season.
South Alabama has been one of the league's hottest teams with wins in six of its last seven games to improve to 14-9 overall and at 11-4 in league play, with only first-place Middle Tennessee boasting a Sun Belt mark. The Jaguars began their current three-game homestand with a win over Troy on Feb. 7 (65-62), and a victory versus Florida Atlantic last Saturday, 72-71.
South Alabama outlasted Louisiana in double-overtime on Jan. 10, 91-89, to claim its second straight game in the series, although the Cajuns still hold a 24-22 advantage all-time.
The Cajuns enjoyed an offensive explosion in their most recent game, shooting 52.5 percent from the field, including 10-of-24 from 3-point range, en route to a 24-point rout of intrastate rival ULM. Pacing six players in double figures was reserve Bryant Mbamalu, who netted 24 points on 8-of-14 shooting. Elfrid Payton tallied 15 points, seven assists and four steals, Shawn Long recorded 11 points and 11 rebounds for the 15th double-double of his freshman season, and Alan-Michael Thompson (12 points), Elridge Moore (11 points, seven rebounds) and Steven Wronkoski (10 points) were also impressive in the balanced effort. Scoring points is rarely an issue for Louisiana, as its 71.3 ppg ranks first in the conference, but conversely, no team has a worse scoring defense (73.5 ppg). Long has been outstanding in the frontcourt, ranking third in the SBC in scoring (15.8 ppg), second in rebounding (10.5 rpg) and fourth in blocks (2.0 bpg). Payton is also a multi-category contributor with 15.2 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 5.3 apg,and 2.3 spg, while Mbamalu rounds out one of the nation's top scoring trios with 14.8 ppg.
In a game that featured 12 ties and 12 lead changes, South Alabama had the final say against FAU over the weekend, as Augustine Rubit tipped in the game- winning basket in the final minute to lift his team to a thrilling one-point win. The Jaguars shot only 40 percent from the field, but they converted 90 percent of their free throws (18-of-20), while committing just eight turnovers. Rubit has seen better days from the field (7-of-16), but he still finished with a team-high 18 points, while Antoine Allen and Mychal Ammons scored 13 points apiece. On the season, USA is right there with Louisiana for the league's scoring lead (69.3 ppg), while boasting a more impressive defensive yield (67.8 ppg). The only big man in the Sun Belt putting together a better season than the Cajuns' Long is Rubit, who averages 19.0 ppg and 10.6 rpg while shooting 48.3 percent from the field. He is also a stellar free- throw shooter, making 147-of-188 from the stripe (.782). Ammons is effective in the paint as well with 10.9 ppg, 6.7 rpg and more than a block and steal per game, while Allen contributes 9.3 ppg, but on just 32.3 percent shooting from the field.
Louisiana can put points on the board against anyone, but it has floundered away from home this season. South Alabama should have no problem scoring against a porous Cajuns defense.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: South Alabama 81, Louisiana 71
02/14 10:32:48 ET