Western Kentucky (9-17) at South Alabama (14-10)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, February 18th, 8:05 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Mitchell Center (10,800) -- Mobile, Alabama . Television: None. Home Record: Western Kentucky 6-7, South Alabama 8-5 . Away Record: Western Kentucky 3-7, South Alabama 5-5. Neutral Record: Western Kentucky 0-3, South Alabama 1-0. Conference Record: Western Kentucky 5-8, South Alabama 6-7. Series Record: South Alabama leads 31-29.
GAMES NOTES: It will be a Sun Belt Conference battle when the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers land in the Mitchell Center to square off with the South Alabama Jaguars this evening.
When these squads met earlier this season at E.A. Diddle Arena it was Western Kentucky that wound up on the winning end as the Hilltoppers captured a 75-66 victory. South Alabama still holds a slim edge in the all-time series with a 31-29 record against Western Kentucky, although the Hilltoppers have made things tight by winning seven of the last eight meetings.
Western Kentucky stopped a two-game slide by taking down Florida Atlantic 64-57 on Thursday and is now 5-8 in conference play which is good enough for fourth in the Sun Belt East Division. The Hilltoppers have only two games left after this one in the regular season with both coming at home beginning against Arkansas State on Thursday.
South Alabama is just a game better than the Hilltoppers in the conference standings and has been playing some improved basketball recently, winning four of its last five on the heels of a three-game losing streak. There are two games remaking for the Jaguars in the season as well although both will be on the road beginning at Florida Atlantic.
Western Kentucky found itself down 32-24 at the half against Florida Atlantic on Thursday but stormed back in the second half by shooting 43.3 percent from the floor and 14-of-19 from the free throw line on its way to the win. The Hilltoppers also played solid defense during the comeback as the Owls managed just 10-of-33 from the floor in the last 20 minutes.
Freshman forward George Fant (9.6 ppg, 6.7 rpg) put together the best game of his short career in the win, pouring in a career-high 20 points, while ripping down 10 rebounds for his second double-double this season. Fant was not the only Hilltopper freshman to post a double-double as Derrick Gordon put in 13 points and brought in 12 rebounds. Gordon has been the most consistent scorer this season at 11.4 points per game. As a team Western Kentucky is putting in 63.8 points per game, while allowing 68.3 for a -4.5 scoring differential. The Hilltoppers have been hurt by a conference worst 38.6 field goal percentage.
Freddie Goldstein erupted for 33 points, hitting nine three-pointers en route to South Alabama's shootout win over ULM 88-86 last Saturday. Goldstein also sank the game winning shot when his jumper fell with 32 seconds remaining. South Alabama was effective all night shooting 53.1 percent from the flooring including 14-of-22 from three-point range.
South Alabama stepped outside of its normal offensive production with the win over ULM. The Jaguars are scoring only 65.8 points per game while shooting 42.1 percent from the floor. South Alabama has been able to keep games close by limiting its opponents' scoring (66.1 ppg) and by dominating on the glass ( 39.3 boards per contest). The dominance on the boards is thanks in large part to the play of sophomore forward Augustine Rubit, who has spent time at the top of the conference in scoring but is now third (14.5 ppg), while sitting as the Sun Belt's best rebounder with an average of 8.9 rebounds per game. Goldstein (11.3 ppg) and Trey Anderson (5.6 ppg, 3.4 apg) flank Rubit as effective contributors in the backcourt.
South Alabama is just 8-5 at home this season but is playing a Western Kentucky team that is just 3-7 on the road. With its strong efforts on the defensive end and on the glass, South Alabama gets the nod in this matchup.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: South Alabama 68, Western Kentucky 59
02/18 10:41:46 ET