South Alabama (3-3) at FIU (2-2)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, December 1, 7:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: U.S. Century Bank Arena (5,000)-- Miami, Florida. Television: None. Home Record: USA 1-0, FIU 1-1. Away Record: USA 2-1, FIU 1-1. Neutral Record: USA 0-2, FIU 0-0. Conference Record: USA 1-0, FIU 1-0. Series Record: South Alabama leads, 17-10.
GAME NOTES: The South Alabama Jaguars continue their tour through the Sunshine State as they visit U.S. Century Bank Arena for a Sun Belt Conference duel with the FIU Panthers.
The Jaguars ended a three-game losing slide on Thursday with a 77-66 victory over the Florida Atlantic Owls on the road. The contest served as the SBC opener for both teams and put South Alabama back at the .500 mark with a 3-3 record. Coach Ronnie Arrow tied Gene Bartow for the most Sun Belt wins in league history. Arrow, now just one win shy of outright control of the record, is 111-84 in conference play in 14 seasons at South Alabama.
FIU began its season with two straight losses to Boston College and Stephen F. Austin, but it managed to climb back to .500 on Thursday by picking up an 80-61 decision over Arkansas State in its SBC opener. The Panthers enter Saturday's contest averaging a league-best 74.2 points-per-game on 46.6 percent shooting from the floor. FIU also leads the conference in 3-point field-goal percentage, shooting 40.3 percent from beyond the arc. Coach Richard Pitino will have a winning record for the first time in his young career if the Panthers manage to fend off the Jaguars.
USA holds a 17-10 edge in the all-time series between these schools. The last meeting between the two squads resulted in an 81-74 victory for the Panthers on Feb. 25, 2012, in Miami.
The Jaguars are third in the conference in scoring with 72.7 points per game on 43 percent shooting from the field. Their defense is not up to par however, as they are allowing 69.5 ppg. Both their scoring offense and scoring defense averages improved versus FAU on Thursday. South Alabama was unstoppable in the contest, as it knocked down 7-of-15 attempts from three-point range in the first half and added 17 makes from the free throw line after the break. The most impressive facet of the performance was the team's season low nine turnovers. Xavier Roberson scored 23 points to lead the way while star forward Augustine Rubit added a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Rubit is leading the conference in scoring (19.2 ppg) and ranks second in rebounding (9.0 rpg). If Roberson continues to produce from the guard position, he and Rubit will form a dynamic one-two punch.
Although they went back and forth with the Red Wolves for much of the first half, the Panthers turned it up a gear to build a double-digit lead in the first half. ASU cut the deficit to seven before the intermission, but Gaby Belardo drained a three-pointer just over two minutes into the second half to put FIU up by 10 points. The Panthers managed to maintain a double- digit advantage the rest of the way and finished the second half with a 66.7 field goal percentage. FIU is going to be a tough out if its bench, which scored 33 points on Thursday, continues to be effective. Junior guard Malik Smith is leading the team with 16 ppg. Junior forward Tymell Murphy (14 ppg, 5 rpg) led the way with 22 points versus ASU and freshman Jerome Frink is often in the mix as well.
Neither of these teams could have asked for a better start to their conference season. As both teams like to run and gun without much concern on the defensive end of the floor, this one should be a shootout. In such contests, the team with the hotter hand usually comes out on top.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: FIU 83, South Alabama 80
12/01 10:31:29 ET