South Alabama (11-8) at Arkansas State (12-8)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, January 31, 8:05 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Convocation Center (10,563) -- Jonesboro, Arkansas. Television: None. Home Record: USA 6-3, ASU 9-2. Away Record: USA 5-3, ASU 3-6. Neutral Record: USA 0-2, ASU 0-0. Conference Record: USA 8-3, ASU 6-5. Series Record: Arkansas State leads, 18-17.
GAME NOTES: The Arkansas State Red Wolves continue their three-game homestand on Thursday night, as they play host to the South Alabama Jaguars in Sun Belt Conference action at the Convocation Center.
South Alabama has been playing its best basketball of late, having just completed a three-game homestand undefeated for its first three-game win streak of the season to move to 11-8 (8-3 in the Sun Belt). It has played fairly well on the road as well, winning five of eight games away from Mobile.
The Jaguars played a tightly-contested bout with FIU last Saturday and used a 5-0 run late in the game to secure a 70-68 victory. They had a lackluster shooting day (.400) and they nearly cost themselves with a poor showing at the foul line (14-of-24), but they held FIU to just 39.2 percent from the floor and forced 17 turnovers, which resulted in 23 points. Augustine Rubit logged his 11th double-double of the season with 13 points and 12 rebounds, while Antoine Allen and Barrington Stevens tallied 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Arkansas State has been solid this year with a 12-8 overall record and a 6-5 mark in conference play. It has enjoyed the comforts of the Convocation Center, winning nine of 11 games on its home floor.
The Red Wolves were stuck in a mini-slump with losses in three of four before snapping out of it last Saturday with a dominating 63-38 win over Florida Atlantic. Obviously, the main story was the play of the defense, as it held the Owls to just 31.7 percent shooting and forced 21 turnovers in the lowest- scoring game for an opponent this season. At the offensive end of the court, Brandon Peterson logged 15 points and 10 rebounds, and in the process became the 25th player in school history to score 1,000 career points. Marcus Hooten added 14 points, and Trey Finn and Kelvin Downs netted 11 points apiece.
Arkansas State won the first meeting between these two teams earlier this season, 63-54, on Dec. 29, 2012 to take an 18-17 lead in the all-time series.
South Alabama hasn't had much of an issue scoring points this season, tying for first in the Sun Belt with 69.8 ppg, and the primary reason for that is the presence of perhaps the conference's best player in Rubit. The junior forward ranks second in scoring (19.1 ppg) and first in rebounding (10.9 rpg), while also sporting 1.5 bpg, a.500 field goal percentage, and a .771 free throw percentage. Mychal Ammons (10.9 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 1.1 bpg) gives the Jaguars a great frontcourt duo, and Allen chips in 9.0 ppg albeit on a dreadful 30.6 percent shooting effort overall.
Arkansas State boasts a balanced squad, scoring 68.8 ppg while allowing just 62.8 ppg to opponents, making it one of only two Sun Belt teams to rank in the top-five in both categories. Ed Townsel is the squad's leading scorer, netting 14.8 ppg thanks to a 52-of-146 showing from 3-point range (.356). Peterson does a nice job clogging the lane with 11.4 ppg and 9.6 rpg, while also adding more than a block and a steal per contest at the defensive end. Although no one else scores in double figures on a nightly basis, five others average between 6.4 and 9.0 ppg.
South Alabama has the game's best player in Rubit, but Arkansas State has a strong answer for him with Peterson. The Red Wolves have a stronger supporting cast as well as the home court advantage, giving them a leg up in this matchup.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Arkansas State 71, South Alabama 68
01/31 10:35:06 ET