FIU (8-7) at Arkansas-Little Rock (10-8)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, January 12, 4:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Jack Stephens Center (5,600) -- Little Rock, Arkansas. Television: CSS, CST. Home Record: FIU 4-2, UALR 9-1. Away Record: FIU 4-5, UALR 0-6. Neutral Record: FIU 0-0, UALR 1-1. Conference Record: FIU 3-3, UALR 4-3. Series Record: Arkansas-Little Rock leads, 16-8.
GAME NOTES: The Arkansas-Little Rock Trojans will try to keep their impressive run at the Jack Stephens Center alive on Saturday night, as they entertain the FIU Panthers in a Sun Belt Conference tilt.
FIU's season started off less than ideal, and following a Dec. 29 loss to Middle Tennessee it was sitting at 4-7. The new year has brought with it great success however, as the team has ripped off a four-game winning streak to move above .500 for the first time.
The Panthers are coming off perhaps their most impressive victory to date, as they traveled to Arkansas State on Thursday night and escaped with a 66-64 win. Jerome Frink hit what proved to be the game-winning free throws with just over three minutes to play in the game, and he finished with 12 points. Also scoring 12 points was Tymell Murphy, while Deric Hill (11 points, six rebounds, three assists) and Malik Smith (10 points, three steals) were also solid in the win.
It has been a similarly up-and-down campaign for UALR. While the squad has not found any success away from home (0-6 on the road), it sports a 10-8 overall record thanks mostly to its outstanding play in Little Rock, winning nine of 10 at the Jack Stephens Center.
The Trojans continued to show their prowess on their own floor on Thursday night when they easily dismissed North Texas, 67-53, to improve to 4-3 in Sun Belt play. They did most of their damage in the second half, where they outscored the Mean Green by a 40-21 margin, and shot a lofty 60 percent from the field. James White made the most of his 24 minutes off the bench, going 7- of-12 for 16 points. Josh Hagins added 11 points, eight assists and six steals, while Will Neighbour chipped in with nine points, 11 rebounds and three blocks.
UALR has doubled up FIU in the all-time series, 16-8, which includes a win in the only matchup last season, 78-64, at home.
FIU has played several close games this season, which is reflected in its minus-2.1 scoring margin. It also gets outperformed on the glass by 2.7 rpg, but it makes up for it my boasting a plus-1.5 turnover differential. The Panthers' most productive player is Murphy, who shoots greater than 60 percent from the floor for 15.1 ppg while adding 7.7 rpg, and more than a block and a steal per game as well. Smith (14.4 ppg) isn't nearly as impressive from the floor (.374), but he has drained 46 of the team's 104 3-pointers. Frink adds 10.2 ppg and 7.3 rpg to the mix.
UALR also boasts a modest offensive output, shooting 43 percent from the field for 68.0 ppg, which is nearly three points per game more than it allows on average. Neighbour paces the squad in both scoring (11.2 ppg) and rebounding (6.9 rpg) while also making an impact at the defensive end with 20 blocks and 21 steals. While John Gillon is the only other Trojan to net double figures in scoring on a nightly basis (10.8 ppg, .403 3PT percentage), six players average between 5.1 and 9.2 ppg.
The Panthers' hot streak has been impressive, and it wouldn't be a surprise if they made it five wins in a row. However, UALR has been outstanding at home and it should put together a strong enough all-around effort to hold off FIU here.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Arkansas Little Rock 68, FIU 65
01/12 10:33:26 ET