Louisiana (5-8) at Arkansas State (6-5)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, December 27, 8:05 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Convocation Center (10,038) -- Jonesboro, Arkansas. Television: None. Home Record: Louisiana 4-2, ASU 4-1. Away Record: Louisiana 1-6, ASU 2-4. Neutral Record: Louisiana 0-0, ASU 0-0. Conference Record: Louisiana 1-1, ASU 0-2. Series Record: Louisiana leads, 43-22.
GAME NOTES: The Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns and the Arkansas State Red Wolves jump back into Sun Belt Conference action on Thursday night when they square off at the Convocation Center in Jonesboro.
Louisiana is coming off an impressive 91-79 win over Duquesne last Saturday, which improved its record to 4-2 at the Cajundome, but it has not fared as well away from home, winning just one of seven matchups. The Cajuns have split their first two conference matchups, beating North Texas (80-76) and losing to Middle Tennessee (72-58).
Arkansas State's season got off to a fantastic start, with wins in four of its first five games, but since then it has come crashing back to Earth. The Red Wolves have dropped four of their last six, including both of their Sun Belt showdowns with FIU (80-61) and FAU (72-65). They most recently lost a tough road bout against Kent State last weekend, 73-69.
The Cajuns hold a convincing 43-22 advantage in the all-time series with the Red Wolves. The teams most recently met last February, with Louisiana claiming a 68-65 victory in overtime.
Louisiana has been one of the better scoring teams in the conference (70.2 ppg), but its biggest issue has been its inability to keep opponents from doing the same (72 ppg). The defensive effort against Duquesne was far from fantastic, but the Cajuns were able to overcome it by having a sensational shooting night, as they made 55.7 percent of their field goal attempts, including 10-of-20 from 3-point range. Shawn Long shined in the victory with 23 points and 14 rebounds, while Bryant Mbamalu was hot on his heels with 22 points, shooting 4-of-5 from beyond the arc in the process. Steven Wronkoski (12 points), Elridge Moore (10 points) and Elfrid Payton (9 points, 4 assists) rounded out a solid effort by the starting five. Long is one of the league's most potent playmakers, as he ranks third in both scoring (17.2 ppg) and rebounding (9.6 rpg), while showing great versatility with 24 blocks and 14 3- pointers. Payton also contributes across the board with 13.3 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 4.9 apg and 2.5 spg, while Mbamalu adds 12.5 ppg.
Arkansas State actually shoots a lower percentage from the field (.416) than its opponents (.447), but thanks to an outstanding plus-4.4 turnover margin, it's able to outscore them by nearly four points per night. Things did not work out in the Red Wolves favor against Kent State however, as they allowed the Golden Flashes to make 51 percent of their field goal attempts while committing an uncharacteristic 19 turnovers themselves in the four-point loss. Ed Townsel did his best to keep the his team in the game, scoring 24 points on 8-of-13 from the field (4-of-7 from 3-point range), while Cameron Golden (15 points) and Brandon Peterson (9 points, 11 rebounds) were also solid. On the season, Townsel leads the team with 15.5 ppg, although his field goal percentage has not been all that impressive (.411). Peterson gives ASU a solid inside-outside duo by contributing 11.6 ppg, a league-best 10.3 rpg, and a team-high 1.5 bpg.
Louisiana has shown the ability to score points in bunches, but it has been entirely too inconsistent to be able to trust on the road against a conference rival. Arkansas State should be able to halt its skid by feeding off the energy in its own building.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Arkansas State 74, Louisiana 67
12/27 10:34:24 ET