South Alabama (7-7) at Louisiana (6-11)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, January 10, 8 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: The Cajundome (13,500) -- Lafayette, Louisiana. Television: None. Home Record: USA 3-3, Louisiana 5-2. Away Record: USA 4-2, Louisiana 1-9. Neutral Record: USA 0-2, Louisiana 0-0. Conference Record: USA 4-2, Louisiana 2-4. Series Record: Louisiana leads, 24-21.
GAME NOTES: A Sun Belt Conference showdown is on tap for Thursday night, as the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns play host to the South Alabama Jaguars.
South Alabama has gotten its Sun Belt schedule off on the right foot by posting wins in four of its first six matchups. However, the team faced Middle Tennessee at home last Saturday and was saddled with a 60-56 defeat. The Jaguars' season has been far from consistent at 7-7, but they do have a signature win at Florida State, 76-71.
Success for Louisiana has been fleeting at best this season, the team checking in with a 6-11 record. The Cajuns have lost three of their last four games, most recently falling at FIU last Saturday, 75-70, to drop to 2-4 in league play.
Louisiana leads the all-time series with South Alabama, 24-21, although the Jaguars won the only matchup last season, 70-65, on Jan. 12, 2012.
The Jaguars fell behind by as many as 15 points to Middle Tennessee in their latest bout, and even though they climbed back to make it a one-possession game with under two minutes to play, they could not finish off the comeback. They have seen much better days shooting the ball, as they wound up draining just 37 percent of their field goal attempts and 58.8 percent of their free throws. Mychal Ammons was a huge boost off the bench with 15 points, eight rebounds and two blocks, while Augustine Rubit tallied a double-double with 10 points and 14 boards. Javier Carter (10 points, seven rebounds) and Freddie Goldstein (12 points, four assists) were also productive in the setback. Although USA's field goal percentage may seem rather modest (.422), it is enough for the team to average 70.2 ppg, third-best in the conference. It helps having perhaps the SBC's best player in Rubit, who puts up 19.3 ppg, 11.2 rpg and 1.3 bpg, while shooting a .513 field goal percentage. With Xavier Robinson (13.6 ppg) serving an indefinite suspension, Ammons (11.4 ppg, 7.6 rpg) has become the squad's second scoring option.
Louisiana ultimately fell just short of FIU last weekend by shooting less than 39 percent from the floor, 54.5 percent from the foul line, and committing an unsightly 22 turnovers. Bryant Mbamalu was the one shining star for the Cajuns, as he poured in 23 points while draining four of the team's 12 3- pointers. Elfrid Payton was also impressive in the setback, narrowly missing a triple-double with 13 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds, while Alan-Michael Thompson tacked on 11 points coming off the bench. Putting up points hasn't been the issue for Louisiana this season, as it ranks second in the league in scoring with 70.7 ppg, but thanks to a league-worst scoring defense (73.3 ppg), it sits with a minus-2.6 scoring margin. Payton has been stuffing the stat sheet all year long, recording 14.2 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 5.2 apg and 2.3 spg. Shawn Long has been solid in the frontcourt with 15.8 ppg, 9.2 rpg and 1.9 bpg, while Mbamalu chips in with 13.7 ppg. There hasn't been much more to speak of at the offensive end, as those three contribute more than 62 percent of the team's total output.
South Alabama may boast the game's best player in Rubit, but its supporting cast hasn't played up to its potential. The Cajuns' big-three of Mbamalu, Long and Payton will help them get back on the winning track at home, where they have played well this season.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Louisiana 76, South Alabama 73
01/10 10:37:24 ET