Florida Atlantic (10-10) at Arkansas-Little Rock (12-9)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, January 24, 8 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Jack Stephens Center (5,600) -- Little Rock, Arkansas. Television: None. Home Record: FAU 6-3, UALR 10-1. Away Record: FAU 3-7, UALR 1-7. Neutral Record: FAU 1-0, UALR 1-1. Conference Record: FAU 5-4, UALR 6-4. Series Record: Arkansas-Little Rock leads, 4-3.
GAME NOTES: The Arkansas-Little Rock Trojans hope to continue their fantastic run at Jack Stephens Center on Thursday night, as they entertain the Florida Atlantic Owls in a Sun Belt Conference showdown.
FAU started off the 2013 calendar year with wins in four of its first five games, but the team dropped its most recent contest at home to North Texas last Saturday, 61-59, in overtime, to fall to 10-10 overall and 5-4 in conference.
UALR improved to 12-9 last weekend with its first true road win of the season, as it beat Western Kentucky, 59-54. The Trojans sit alone in first place atop the Sun Belt Western Division standings at 6-4, and they now return home where they have won 10 of 11 this season.
The Trojans won a defensive struggle the last time these two teams met, 40-38, on Jan. 7, 2012, to take a 4-3 series lead over the Owls.
FAU trailed by 12 points against North Texas early only to claw its way back to lead by two in the final minute of regulation, but the Mean Green tied it up at the buzzer and ultimately won the game in overtime. The Owls played solid defense on the night, holding North Texas to 38.3 percent shooting, but they could not take advantage themselves, shooting 21-of-57 from the field (.368) and 10-of-17 from the foul line (.588), which proved costly. For the 16th consecutive game, Greg Gantt was the team's leading scorer, putting up 22 points, but he did so on just a 6-of-17 shooting effort. Stefan Moody (12 points) was the only other player to reach double figures, but he also committed six turnovers. Gantt has been climbing the scoring charts in recent weeks, as his 22.5 ppg ranks third in the nation, with most of his damage coming thanks to his 3-point prowess (59-of-142, .415). Moody has been a solid second option with 14.2 ppg, and Pablo Bertone adds 8.5 ppg to the mix. As a team, FAU shoots exactly the same percentage from the field as its opponents (.411), but even with nearly seven 3-pointers per contest, it has a minus-1.8 scoring margin mostly because of issues with turnovers (15.4 per game, minus-3.1 margin).
In a low-scoring affair against Western Kentucky, UALR was able to pull away down the stretch thanks to a solid shooting effort (.462), and an even better defensive showing as the Hilltoppers made good on less than 33 percent of their total shots and turned the ball over 18 times. Josh Hagins shot 6-of-9 from the floor, including 2-of-4 from 3-point range, on his way to 14 points, and he also handed out six assists. Leroy Isler added 10 points in the triumph. The Trojans have one of the better offensive attacks in the Sun Belt this season, as they shoot 43.5 percent from the field and 35 percent from 3- point range in averaging 67.7 ppg. Will Neighbour is a steady presence in the frontcourt with 11.0 ppg and 6.7 rpg, and he is also a factor at the defensive end with more than a block and steal per contest. With John Gillon (10.8 ppg) out indefinitely with a knee injury, UALR is without another double-digit scorer, but James White (8.8 ppg), Hagins (7.7 ppg, 3.3 apg) and Isler (7.1 ppg) have helped bring balance to the squad.
Gantt is playing like the best player in the Sun Belt this season, and as long as he's on the floor the Owls have a shot to win almost every game. That said, UALR has been far too good at home for FAU's superstar to lift his team to victory in this one.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Arkansas-Little Rock 67, Florida Atlantic 61
01/24 10:34:30 ET