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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, December 14, 8:05 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Cajundome (12,068) -- Lafayette, Louisiana. Television: None. Home Record: Houston 6-1, Louisiana 3-0. Away Record: Houston 1-1, Louisiana 2-3. Neutral Record: Houston 0-2, Louisiana 1-0. Conference Record: Houston 0-0, Louisiana 0-0. Series Record: Houston leads, 9-6.
GAME NOTES: The Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns open up a two-game homestand on Saturday night, as they square off with the Houston Cougars in a non- conference clash.
After dropping back-to-back games to Texas A&M (74-57) and San Jose State (72-68) to kick off the month of December, Houston got back on track on Monday night when it defeated Alcorn State at home, 89-58. The Cougars are 7-4 this season, although they have not fared well away from home, going a combined 1-3 in road and neutral-court matchups.
Louisiana had been winners of four in a row heading into its latest game, but it ran into a buzz saw on the road at nationally-ranked Louisville, falling in a 113-74 final. The Cajuns welcome a return to Lafayette where they've gone 3-0, as they have played just one of their last seven matchups on their home floor.
These teams met last December in Houston, with the Cougars coming away with an 85-63 win to extend their lead in the all-time series to 9-6.
The Cougars made easy work of Alcorn State earlier in the week by shooting a lofty 62 percent from the field, while holding their opponent to just 33.9 percent. TaShawn Thomas and Danrad Knowles shared the spotlight with 19 points apiece, with Thomas doing so on 8-of-9 from the floor while adding nine rebounds and four assists. Jherrod Stiggers shot 4-of-5 from 3-point range on his way to 16 points, and J.J. Richardson chipped in with 11 points. On the season, Houston nets 74.5 points per game on nearly 46 percent field goal efficiency, and boasts positive margins in scoring (+5.6), rebounding (+1.4) and turnovers (+1.7). Thomas has been outstanding in the frontcourt, as he not only scores 16.6 points per game on 63.6 percent shooting, but adds 9.5 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game to boot. With Danuel House (15.6 ppg) out with a knee injury, Stiggers (10.5 ppg) and L.J. Rose (10.1 ppg) have stepped up their play of late.
The Cajuns were thoroughly overmatched on the road in the 39-point loss to Louisville, and they were outshot from the field, 61.3 percent to 41.9 percent, and sent the Cardinals to the foul line 40 times, where they converted 82.5 percent of their tries. Shawn Long shined in defeat with 25 points on 11-of-19 from the field, while Elfrid Payton finished with a line of 12 points, 10 assists, five rebounds and two steals. Kasey Shepherd drilled four 3-pointers off the bench for 18 points, and Steven Wronkoski rounded out the effort with 10 points. Louisiana has had little trouble putting up points this season (83.2 ppg), but its up-tempo style allows for plenty of scoring opportunities for its opponents as well (78.6 ppg). It is also plagued with more than 15 turnovers per game. The dynamic duo of Long and Payton has been getting it done all season. Long patrols the paint with 20.7 points, 10.9 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game, while Payton also stuffs the stat sheet with 19.0 points, 6.1 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 2.4 assists per outing.
Even though Houston has been largely impressive this season, it has yet to show much away from home. Behind the efforts of Long and Payton, the Cajuns should find a way to pull this one out.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Louisiana 85, Houston 80
12/14 10:41:35 ET