South Alabama (6-6) at ULM (2-7)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, January 3, 8:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Fant-Ewing Coliseum (7,085) -- Monroe, Louisiana. Television: None. Home Record: USA 3-2, ULM 2-2. Away Record: USA 3-2, ULM 0-5. Neutral Record: USA 0-2, ULM 0-0. Conference Record: USA 3-1, ULM 1-2. Series Record: South Alabama leads, 8-4.
GAME NOTES: The ULM Warhawks will wrap up a brief two-game homestand on Thursday night, as they do battle with the South Alabama Jaguars in a Sun Belt Conference showdown.
The Sun Belt has been much more active than many conferences through the first two months of the season, and South Alabama has taken advantage of its early league games to the tune of a 3-1 record, although it lost its most recent matchup at home against Arkansas State last Saturday, 63-54. Overall, the Jaguars are 6-6, which includes a 76-71 win over Florida State in their season-opener.
ULM has gotten off to a sluggish 2-7 start, but it enters this matchup with a little bit of momentum as it came back from a 10-point deficit to defeat Florida Atlantic, 65-64, on a game-winning 3-pointer by Trent Mackey with just 10 seconds left to play. Both of the Warhawks' wins this year have come at home.
The Jaguars narrowly survived last February's matchup in Monroe, 88-86, and they lead the all-time series with the Warhawks, 8-4.
South Alabama put forth one of its worst offensive performances of the season in a game it never led against Arkansas State, shooting a woeful 27.4 percent from the field while committing just as many turnovers as it had field goals (17). Doing his best to overcome the rest of the team's struggles was Augustine Rubit, who was outstanding with 20 points, 17 rebounds, two blocks and two steals. Antoine Allen was the only other Jaguar to score in double- figures with 11 points, but he was off the mark from the field at just 2-of-14 (including 1-of-10 from 3-point range). On the season, USA's average record has been perfectly displayed in its tight plus-1.8 scoring margin. Most of its production has come from Rubit, who has performed like the Sun Belt's top forward, ranking second in the league in scoring (19.0 ppg) and first in rebounding (10.8 rpg), shooting 49.1 percent from the field in the process. Xavier Robinson adds 13.6 ppg, while Mychal Ammons is a strong complement to Rubit in the frontcourt with 11.6 ppg and 7.5 rpg.
ULM only held one lead in the final 17 minutes of its recent clash with FAU, and that came in the final seconds following the game-winning 3-pointer from Mackey. Although it was outshot from the field, .548 to .429, the team was able stick around by winning the turnover battle by a 20-9 margin. After never scoring more than 15 points in a game, Jayon James exploded for a career-best 26 points on 12-of-21 field goal efficiency, making it a double-double by grabbing 10 rebounds. Mackey was also impressive in the triumph, shooting 5- of-11 from the field for 19 points, while Marcelis Hansberry added 10 points and five assists. Overall this season, the Warhawks have struggled at both ends of the floor, ranking last in the conference in both scoring offense (56.0 ppg) and scoring defense (73.1 ppg), resulting in a minus-14.3 scoring margin, nearly three times as worse as 11th-place FIU (minus-5.1). Mackey's prowess from 3-point land (.458) has resulted in a team-high 12.6 ppg, and James (10.8 ppg) leads the way with 8.4 ppg and 4.4 apg, but he also commits 5.4 turnovers per game.
ULM has shown that it is capable of competing on its home floor, but South Alabama possesses too many matchup problems in the frontcourt for the Warhawks to overcome.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: South Alabama 75, ULM 63
01/03 10:44:28 ET