Arkansas State (4-1) at FIU (1-2)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, November 29, 7:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: U.S. Century Bank Arena (5,000) -- Miami, Florida. Television: None. Home Record: ASU 2-0, FIU 0-1. Away Record: ASU 2-1, FIU 1-1. Neutral Record: ASU 0-0, FIU 0-0. Conference Record: ASU 0-0, FIU 0-0. Series Record: ASU leads 19-6.
GAMES NOTES: In the Sun Belt Conference opener the Arkansas State Red Wolves will travel to U.S. Century Bank Arena to take on the FIU Panthers on Thursday night.
Since a 74-61 loss at Dayton in the season opener, Arkansas State has been rolling with wins in four straight games. The most recent was a 93-63 rout of Lamar at home with the two previous games much more closely contested road battles. The Red Wolves will remain in the Sunshine State to face Florida Atlantic next before a three-game homestand.
Through three games FIU is 1-2 with its first win coming on the road against Coastal Carolina (87-77) last time out. In its only home game so far FIU dropped a 69-60 decision to Stephen F. Austin. This is the first of a two- game home stint that leads to a six-game road trip taking the Panthers into the New Year.
This hasn't been a very competitive conference matchup with Arkansas State holding a 19-6 all-time advantage against FIU. That includes wins in four of the last six meetings, including a 77-67 win in last season's only meeting.
Arkansas State feasted on Lamar last time out especially in the second half when the Red Wolves connected on 56.8 percent of their shots from the field including 7-of-9 from 3-pont range. The Red Wolves also had a distinct edge in rebounds (49-26), while forcing 18 turnovers and committing eight themselves. Ed Townsel led the way with 27 points, while nailing six 3-pointers.
During its hot start, Arkansas State has been scoring at a relatively high level (76.0 ppg) while shooting a modest 44.2 percent from the field. While the team's defensive numbers (63.8 ppg, 40.8 FG percentage) are strong, they are largely due to a 40-point win over Lamar and a 76-47 win over Division II foe Arkansas-Monticello. In its other two wins the Red Wolves have won by a combined five points. Townsel (17.8 ppg) has been nailing shots all season, especially from deep as he has at least three triples in every game this season. Brandon Peterson (11.4 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 2.4 bpg) is a threat to post a double-double on a nightly basis while protecting the rim well at the defensive end. Kendrick Washington (9.4 ppg, 5.4 rpg) and Trey Finn (9.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg) are another pair of players capable of heating up offensively.
In a shootout with Coastal Carolina, FIU ended up on top thanks to a 60.9 percent shooting effort in the second half. The Panthers shot 52.7 percent from the field in the game overall and had a 21-11 edge on points from the free-throw line. The Panthers also forced 20 turnovers which they turned into 21 points. Malik Smith put in 21 points including five 3-pointers to lead the way.
The Panthers really needed a strong offensive showing to earn their first win because of the lapses on defense. Opposing teams are scoring 76.7 points per game and knocking down 50.3 percent of their field goal attempts against FIU. That has led to a -4.4 scoring differential. FIU is also a weak team in terms of rebounding, bringing in only 28.7 per game, which is nearly 10 fewer than opponents are collecting. Smith (17.7 ppg) has been a lock for double figures early on, while Jerome Frink (12.0 ppg) and Tymell Murphy (11.3 ppg) are each scoring reasonably well as the second and third options. The duo of Frink and Murphy are also the only players on the team averaging more than four rebounds per game.
This game could very well turn into a 3-point contest between Townsel and Smith. With those two duking it out it will come down to which supporting cast can step up and Townsel is fortunate enough to have the better team around him.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Arkansas State 76, FIU 69
11/29 10:38:07 ET