ULM (3-14) at FIU (11-10)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, February 2, 7:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: U.S. Century Bank Arena (5,000) -- Miami, Florida. Television: None. Home Record: ULM 2-5, FIU 6-3. Away Record: ULM 1-9, FIU 5-7. Neutral Record: ULM 0-0, FIU 0-0. Conference Record: ULM 2-9, FIU 6-6. Series Record: FIU leads, 4-2.
GAME NOTES: The FIU Panthers continue their three-game homestand on Saturday night, as they welcome the ULM Warhawks to U.S. Century Bank Arena for a Sun Belt Conference showdown.
ULM has been unrivaled in its status as the Sun Belt's most futile team, as it is just 2-9 in the league and has won only three of its 17 games overall. The Warhawks already have three losing streaks of three games or longer, including their most recent six-game slide, which culminated in a 76-71 defeat at the hands of Florida Atlantic on Thursday.
A few weeks ago, FIU was one of the conference's hottest teams, and following an 80-75 triumph over Louisiana on Jan. 24, it had won seven of eight games. Since then however, the Panthers have dropped back-to-back heartbreakers at South Alabama (60-58) and at home versus Middle Tennessee (66-64) to slip to 11-10 overall and 6-6 in conference.
FIU won the lone meeting between these two teams during the 2011-12 campaign, 54-50, on Jan. 7, 2012, to take a 4-2 lead in the all-time series.
The Warhawks showed plenty of promise against FAU, leading by nine points at the half and again by seven with less than nine minutes to play. Unfortunately, they lost control down the stretch as they saw their lengthy losing streak continue. They shot less than 40 percent from the field, committed 16 turnovers, and didn't help themselves much at the foul line either (16-of-26). Despite the setback, Amos Olatayo put up a career-high 25 points on 11-of-18 from the field. Trent Mackey drilled 4-of-9 from 3-point range for 14 points, while Jayon James stuffed the stat sheet with seven points, nine assists, eight rebounds, two steals and a block (and also five turnovers). No Sun Belt squad has been worse at the offensive end than ULM, as it averages a low 58.8 ppg on 41.4 percent shooting, and its scoring defense (69.9 ppg) hasn't been the huge boost it would need to be to keep the team competitive. Olatayo has been one of the few efficient pieces of ULM's offensive attack, shooting nearly 47 percent from the field for 14.8 ppg. Mackey has drained 41-of-103 tries from 3-point range en route to 10.2 ppg, while James tallies 10.1 ppg, 6.8 rpg and 4.7 apg.
FIU appeared well on its way to a statement win against first-place Middle Tennessee the last time out, as it was up by 20 late in the first half, but it was outshot from the field after intermission, 63 percent to 37.5 percent, as the Blue Raiders mounted their comeback. The knockout blow came thanks to a buzzer-beating jumper by MT which handed the Panthers a devastating two-point defeat. Tymell Murphy was strong in the frontcourt with 19 points and 10 rebounds for his seventh double-double of the season, while Marco Porcher Jimenez and Malik Smith tacked on 15 and 11 points, respectively. On the season, the Panthers boast one of the strongest offensive attacks in the league at 69.0 ppg, but their problems have come at the defensive end as they rank 10th in yielding 70.5 ppg. Murphy gives the team a solid presence in the low post as he averages 15.3 ppg, 7.7 rpg and more than a block and a steal per contest, all while leading the conference in field goal percentage (.598). Story isn't quite as efficient with his shot (.363) but still generates 14.3 ppg, and Jerome Frink brings 10.0 ppg and 7.1 rpg to the table.
FIU will be anxious to get the bitter taste of defeat out its mouth, and there's no better way to bounce back then at home against the league's worst team.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: FIU 71, ULM 60
02/02 10:45:04 ET