North Texas (7-11) at FIU (8-8)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, January 17, 7:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: U.S. Century Bank Arena (5,000) -- Miami, Florida. Television: None. Home Record: UNT 5-4, FIU 4-2. Away Record: UNT 0-6, FIU 4-6. Neutral Record: UNT 2-1, FIU 0-0. Conference Record: UNT 2-5, FIU 3-4. Series Record: North Texas leads, 11-3.
GAME NOTES: The North Texas Mean Green will try once again to secure their first road win of the season, as they pull into Miami for Thursday's Sun Belt Conference showdown with the FIU Panthers.
The Mean Green's disappointing 0-6 road record has been a big factor in their underachieving season, as they sit at just 7-11 overall. They had lost five of their previous six heading into their last game versus South Alabama, and although they came away with a 66-56 victory, they are still just 2-5 in conference play.
After a lackluster 4-7 start to the season, FIU had won four straight games, culminating in a 66-64 triumph at Arkansas State on Jan. 10, to surge above .500 for the first time all season. The Panthers ended that streak with their first loss of 2013 on Saturday, dropping an 88-76 decision at Arkansas-Little Rock to fall to 3-4 in the Sun Belt.
North Texas has won 11 of the previous 14 matchups against FIU all-time, including four of the last five.
North Texas opened up a 14-point halftime lead over South Alabama the last time out, and never looked back en route to the 10-point win. UNT shot just 35.3 percent from the floor, but it made up for it with an outstanding showing from the foul line (29-of-34), and by putting forth one of its best defensive performances of the season in holding the Jaguars to 28.1 percent field goal efficiency. All five Mean Green starters scored in double figures, paced by 14 points apiece from P.J. Hardwick and Tony Mitchell (11 rebounds, four blocks). On the season, UNT ranks in the bottom half of the Sun Belt in both scoring offense (67.1 ppg) and scoring defense (68.1 ppg), but it has one of the league's most explosive players in Mitchell, who tallies 14.6 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 2.6 bpg and 1.3 spg while stretching the floor with a team-high 17 3-pointers. Jordan Williams (11.6 ppg), Alzee Williams (10.5 ppg), and Roger Franklin (9.1 ppg, 5.8 rpg) have been solid complementary pieces.
FIU put together a solid game on the road last Saturday, shooting 11-of-23 from 3-point range and 21-of-24 from the foul line, but it ultimately couldn't outlast UALR and its .592 field goal percentage as it was handed a 12-point loss. It put together a great all-around offensive effort with six players scoring in double figures, led by 14 points by Malik Smith. Scoring points hasn't been the issue for the Panthers, who rank third in the conference in points per game at 69.8 ppg, but they cannot stop anyone at the defensive end as teams net 72.5 ppg against them. They are led by one of the most efficient players in the league in Tymell Murphy, who nets a conference-best 58.7 percent of his field goal attempts for 14.9 ppg while also putting up team- highs in rebounds (7.5 rpg) and blocks (1.2 bpg). Smith (14.4 ppg) does the majority of his damage from 3-point range (49-of-128, .383), while Jerome Frink pitches in 10.3 ppg and 7.1 rpg.
UNT has talent, but has yet to show the ability to conquer a road test. On the other side, FIU has been far from consistent, but it showed plenty of promise on its road trip last week. A return home should bode well for the Panthers.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: FIU 75, North Texas 70
01/17 10:36:58 ET