Western Kentucky (11-9) at South Alabama (9-8)|
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, January 24, 8:05 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Mitchell Center (10,041) -- Mobile, Alabama.
Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: WKU 8-2, USA 4-3. Away Record: WKU 2-5,
USA 5-3. Neutral Record: WKU 1-2, USA 0-2. Conference Record: WKU 5-4, USA
6-3. Series Record: South Alabama leads, 32-29.
GAME NOTES: The South Alabama Jaguars entertain the Western Kentucky
Hilltoppers in a Sun Belt Conference matchup on Thursday night at the Mitchell
Center in Mobile.
WKU started the season rather promising, and following a 70-64 win over North
Texas on Dec. 29, it was a perfect 4-0 in conference play. Since the new year
however, the Hilltoppers have gone south in a hurry with losses in four of
five contests. They fell at home to Arkansas-Little Rock last Saturday, 59-54,
to slip to 11-9 overall and 5-4 in conference.
South Alabama's season has been up-and-down to the say the least, especially
in recent weeks as it has alternated wins and losses in each of the last seven
games. The Jaguars hosted ULM in their latest bout and came away with a 71-56
win to move to above .500 at 9-8, and at 6-3 in league play, they sit in
second place in the Sun Belt's Eastern Division behind Middle Tennessee (8-1).
The Jaguars won the latest meeting between these Sun Belt Eastern Division
rivals, 66-61, on Feb. 18, 2012, to take a 32-29 lead in the all-time series.
WKU had one of its worst offensive showings of the year in the 54-point effort
last Saturday against UALR, shooting just 16-of-49 from the field (.327) while
committing 18 turnovers. The outcome could have been much worse had it not
been for Brandon Harris, who shot 6-of-11 from 3-point range for a game-high
22 points in a performance that helped earn him Sun Belt Conference Player of
the Week honors. George Fant was the only other Hilltopper to reach double
figures with 13 points. On the season, WKU sports the third-best scoring
defense in the league (64.5 ppg), but it is oftentimes let down by an
uninspiring offensive attack (.422 FG percentage, 66.8 ppg). Its scoring
output has been especially sour since Jamal Crook (14.5 ppg, 4.5 ppg) went
down with a foot injury in mid-December. In Crook's absence, T.J. Price has
stepped up as the unit's go-to guy with 14.1 ppg. Fant (12.0 ppg) and Harris
(8.8 ppg) have both been active on the boards, grabbing 6.3 and 6.6 rpg,
respectively, for a team that ranks second in the league in rebounding margin
After the first half ended in a 27-27 tie, South Alabama was able to pull away
after intermission for the 15-point victory behind 62.5 percent shooting in
the period. It was another day at the office for Augustine Rubit, who shot 8-
of-15 from the field and 7-of-8 from the foul line for 23 points, while adding
nine rebounds for good measure. Rubit is arguably the Sun Belt's most imposing
force, as he ranks second in scoring (19.5 ppg), first in rebounding (10.8
rpg), and fifth in blocks (1.4 bpg). He is also an outstanding free throw
shooter for a big man (.792). Freddie Goldstein was also impressive in the
Jaguars' latest win, shooting 5-of-10 from 3-point range for 16 points, while
Mychal Ammons and Antoine Allen both tallied 10 points. Ammons is a strong
complement to Rubit in the USA frontcourt, tallying 11.1 ppg and 7.4 rpg.
Goldstein (8.4 ppg) and Allen (8.3 ppg) are inconsistent out on the perimeter,
as the two have combined for 50 3-pointers but at just a 28.9 percent clip. As
a team, South Alabama owns the league's strongest scoring offense at 70.6 ppg,
which helps make up for its eighth-ranked scoring defense (68.9 ppg).
South Alabama's foundation in the low post can match any team in the Sun Belt,
and in front of the hometown faithful, expect the Jaguars to knock off the
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: South Alabama 71, Western Kentucky 64
01/24 10:34:59 ET