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Sun Belt Conference Men's Basketball news and notes

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Riding a three-game winning streak, North Texas will look to finish off the NIT Preseason Tip-Off with a victory on Tuesday at 7 p.m. in Charlottesville, Va. against Virginia.

 

In their latest 80-66 win over IUPUI, the Mean Green (3-2) rallied behind Preseason All-American Tony Mitchell's 21 points and four blocks. Roger Franklin was also a big contributor, recording his fifth career double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds.

 

The NT win-streak started with a 74-59 ousting of the defending Southland Conference champions Lamar. The Mean Green followed it up with a 78-49 thumping over Cameron in their home-opener at The Super Pit. Over the three games, Mitchell averaged 16.7 points, 8.7 rebounds, 2.67 blocks and a .487 shooting percentage.

 

Arkansas State (2-1) has won its last two, including a 77-73 triple-overtime thriller over Tennessee-Martin. The Red Wolves were on the verge of defeat in the first overtime but Ed Townsel came through with a banked, off-balance shot from beyond the arc with 2.2 seconds left to level up the score. Townsel scored six more in triple-overtime to solidify the win.

 

ASU made its home debut at the ASU Convocation Center with a 76-47 affair over Arkansas-Monticello. Brandon Peterson registered a double-double with a career-high 15 rebounds and 12 points. On the week, Peterson led the team with 12.5 points per game, 11 rebounds per game, five blocks and a .529 shooting percentage.

 

The Red Wolves will look to stay hot when they travel to in-state rival Central Arkansas on Wednesday for a 7 p.m. tipoff.

 

WKU (2-1) also enters the week after winning its last two and is set for the 2012 Cancun Challenge with an 8:30 p.m. start against Iowa on Tuesday. The Hilltoppers will then either face Wichita State or DePaul on Wednesday, as both games will be televised on CBS Sports Network.

 

In its last game, T.J. Price and Jamal Crook each posted career highs of 26 points to lead WKU past Western Carolina 92-81 in the 30th Annual BB&T Classic. George Fant added 12 points and four rebounds while Teeng Akol contributed with 10 points in 13 minutes.

 

It was Crook's 15th double-digit scoring game in the last 38 outings, as he also poured in 16 against Austin Peay in a 74-54 victory to start the win-streak. Crook also grabbed eight rebounds over the two games and also shot .611 from the field.

 

UALR (2-2) is coming off a 59-43 victory over Milwaukee in the opening game of the Hoops for Hope Classic. The Trojans will look to take down Jacksonville in game two at the Jack Stephens Center at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

 

Will Neighbour notched a game-high 17 points in the win over the Panthers and also brought down six boards. Leroy Isler chipped in with a career-high 13 points, five rebounds and four steals in his first career start. The Trojans shot a season-best 51.1 percent from the field to wrap-up the win.

 

Check out www.sunbeltsports.org throughout the week for updated SBC basketball news, stats and scores.

 

Sun Belt Conference Men's Basketball Player of the Week – As selected by the Sun Belt member institutions

 

Jamal Crook (WKU, Sr., G)

WKU senior guard Jamal Crook led WKU to two wins last week, averaging 21.0 points and shooting 61.1 percent from the field against Austin Peay and Western Carolina. Crook scored 16 points and had nine assists against the Governors on Tuesday and followed it up with a career high 26 points on 6-of-8 shooting against the Catamounts on Saturday. Crook played 29.5 minutes per contest in the two Hilltopper wins, and he had 13 assists and just six turnovers. The Louisville, Ky., native made 14 of 15 free throws in the Western Carolina game, setting career marks in those categories as well. Crook has led WKU in scoring in each of the first three games of the 2012-13 season.

 

Upcoming Games

 

11/20/2012

South Alabama vs. Monmouth - 3:00 PM

North Texas at Virginia - 3:30 PM

Middle Tennessee at UCF - 6:00 PM

Troy vs. SEMO - 7:00 PM

WKU vs. Iowa - 8:30 PM (CBS Sports Network)

 

11/21/2012

South Alabama at Georgia State - 2:00 PM

Arkansas State at Central Arkansas - 7:00 PM

SUNO at UL-Lafayette - 7:00 PM

Jacksonville at UALR - 7:30 PM

WKU vs. TBD - TBA (CBS Sports Network)

 

11/23/2012

American at Florida Atlantic - 12:00 PM

UL-Lafayette at New Mexico St. - 8:30 PM

 

11/24/2012

FIU at Coastal Carolina - 6:00 PM

Texas Southern at Middle Tennessee - 6:00 PM

UL-Monroe at Louisiana Tech - 7:00 PM

Brescia at WKU - 7:30 PM

SMU vs. UALR - 8:30 PM

 

Recent Results

 

11/16/2012

Arkansas State 77, UT Martin 73 (3 OT)

Mississippi 92, UALR 52

Texas Southern 74, Louisiana-Lafayette 71 (OT)

North Texas 78, Cameron 49

 

11/17/2012

Stephen F. Austin 69, FIU 60

Florida Atlantic 64, Coppin State 61

Western Kentucky 92, Western Carolina 81

 

11/18/2012

Louisiana Tech 70, Troy 46

Elon 62, Florida Atlantic 59 (OT)

#10 Florida 66, Middle Tennessee 45

Boise St. 63, Louisiana-Lafayette 57

 

11/19/2012

Tennessee State 68, South Alabama 57

UALR 59, Milwaukee 43

Troy 68, Chattanooga 61

North Texas 80, IUPUI 66

 

Team News and Notes

 

UALR Trojans

The UALR Trojans sit at 2-2 overall after going 1-2 in their most recent week of play … The Trojans started the week with losses at Louisiana Tech (11/14) and Ole Miss (11/16), but rebounded with a victory over Milwaukee (11/19) … Last Wednesday, Louisiana Tech forced UALR into 19 turnovers and held the Trojans to 30.4 percent shooting, as the Bulldogs won by a final of 70-52 at Thomas Assembly Center … Louisiana Tech knocked down 22 free throws and held a 34-18 scoring advantage in the paint to hand the Trojans their first loss of the season … Leading 47-33 at the half, Ole Miss used a 26-to-4 run to start the second half to put the game out of reach and top UALR by a 92-52 final score on Friday … The Rebels finished the game shooting 52 percent (33-of-64) from the floor 74 percent (20-of-27) from the foul line … UALR used a strong defensive effort to hold Milwaukee to 33 percent shooting from the field and 23 percent shooting from three-point range and earn a 59-43 win over the visiting Panthers Monday night at the Jack Stephens Center as part of the Hoops for Hope Classic … Junior Will Neighbour led all players with a season-high 17 points, while junior Leroy Isler chipped in with career-high 13 points, five rebounds and four steals in his first career start …The Panthers entered Monday's contest shooting 41.4 percent from the field and 41.5 percent from three-point range, but were held to season-low efforts in both categories by a UALR defense that forced Milwaukee into a season-high 19 turnovers … Freshman James White scored seven points, grabbed six rebounds and blocked two shots in what was also the first start of his career … Freshman John Gillon totaled nine points, four rebounds and three assists while getting the start at point guard. Sophomore Ben Dillard came off the bench to score seven points on 3-of-5 shooting … UALR finished the night with a season-best 51.1 (24-of-47) shooting percentage from the field … Over the last three games, Gillon has led UALR with 10.0 ppg and is shooting 50 percent (5-for-10) from three-point range … On the year, Gillon is averaging 13.0 ppg and shooting 46.7 percent from long range … Freshman James White is averaging 10.0 ppg and a team-best 6.3 boards per game … White also leads the Trojans in blocks (6) and field goal percentage (50.0) … UALR returns to action Wednesday as it continues the Hoops for Hope Classic against Jacksonville at the Jack Stephens Center.

Arkansas State Red Wolves

Senior forward Brandon Peterson became the 13th player in the program's history to reach the 600 career rebounds plateau with a game and career-high 15 rebounds in the Red Wolves' home-opening victory over Arkansas-Monticello last Tuesday (11/13). Peterson has currently amassed 615 career boards in 99 games for a 6.2 career per game average and is 12 rebounds shy of moving into a tie for 12th place with Gaylon Ward (1960-62; 627 career rebounds) among ASU's all-time leaders.

 

The last time A-State played in a three-overtime contest prior to Friday's (11/16) three extra-session 77-73 win at Tennessee-Martin was in the 2008-09 season when the Red Wolves dropped an 86-83 decision at North Texas. ASU is presently 1-3 all-time in three overtime outings, which includes an 82-77 setback at Lamar in the 1985-86 season and a 102-100 loss to North Carolina A&T at the Acme-Boot Showdown in the 1992-93 campaign.

 

Junior guard Ed Townsel has tallied double-figure scoring off the bench in each of ASU's three games this season to date following a team-best 19 points performance at Tennessee-Martin (11/16). Townsel poured in 14 points in the Red Wolves' season opener at Dayton (11/10) and netted 14 points in A-State's home-opening tilt versus Arkansas-Monticello (11/13). A season ago, Townsel reached double-digit points on 11 occasions which included a six-game stretch (11/29-12/17).

 

The Red Wolves improved to 13-3 (.813 win pct.) in their last 16 home openers with Tuesday's (11/13) 76-47 non-league win over Arkansas-Monticello while head coach John Brady is presently 4-1 in such outings since his arrival to ASU in the 2008-09 season.

Florida Atlantic Owls

Coach Mike Jarvis' men's basketball team went 1-3 in its four games as part of the EA Sports Maui Invitational. The Owls lost to North Carolina and Mississippi State in its opening games, before beating Coppin St. 64-61 and losing to host Elon 61-59 in overtime at the Mainland Regional. Stefan Moody is the Owls leading scorer, averaging 14.0 points per game, while Jackson Trapp has shifted over into the role of starting point guard. Senior guard Greg Gantt is second on the team in both scoring (13.3 ppg) and rebounding (6.0 rpg). Classmate Jordan McCoy is the team's leading rebounder at 7.3 boards per game. This Saturday, the Owls host American in their regular season home opener. It will be the fourth season in a row that the Owls and the Eagles have met. American won last season's meeting 62-56 in Washington D.C. FAU recently signed two players to National Letters of Intent. Grant Pelchen is a 6-foot-10 center from Jupiter High School that will add depth to a frontline that will also have Dragan Sekelja and Justin Raffington. Chris Jenkins is a 6-foot-4 shooting guard who will be expected to help fill the void created by the graduation of Greg Gantt.

 

FIU Panthers

The FIU men's basketball team (0-2) enters this week's action, coming off a 69-60 loss to Stephen F. Austin on Saturday, Nov. 17. Shooting just 35.7 percent from the floor, the Panther suffer their first home-opening loss the 2003-04 season.

 

Junior Tymell Murphy led all Panthers with 17 points, notching his first-career, double-digit outing. The Brooklyn, N.Y., native scored a career-high in points, shooting 7-of-14 from the floor. Also scoring in double-figures versus the Lumberjacks was junior Malik Smith, who posted 16 points for the second-straight game. The Boston, Mass., native converted 5-of-13 shooting from the field, including a team-high three treys.

 

The Panthers registered a season-high 15 steals on Saturday, led by sophomore Deric Hill and freshman Jerome Frink who each had six. Both totals were career highs for each player.

 

The Panthers enter this week's action averaging 65.0 points-per-game (No. 7 in the SBC) on 37.4 percent shooting (43-of-115) from the field (No. 9 in the SBC). FIU is allowing 76.5 points-per-game (No. 10 in the SBC) as the opposition is shooting 51.4 percent from the floor (No. 11 in the SBC).

 

The Panther will hit the road to take on Coastal Carolina on Saturday, Nov. 24. Game time is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. It will mark FIU's first-ever trip to CCU and the HTC Center.

 

FIU enters Saturday's contest with Coastal Carolina with a 14-9 record versus teams from the Big South Conference all-time. The Panthers defeated the Chanticleers last season, 64-62, on Nov. 26 in Miami, Fla.

 

Entering Saturday's game with Coastal Carolina, the FIU Panthers have converted at least one 3-point basket in 115-straight games, dating back to Dec. 20, 2008.

 

Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns

The Cajuns return home for the second time in the 2012-13 season, hosting Southern University of New Orleans on Wednesday, Nov. 21 beginning at 7:00 p.m. in the Cajundome. The Cajuns dropped to 1-2 on the year when Louisiana dropped both ends of a road trip, falling 74-71 decision in overtime at Texas Southern on Friday (Nov. 16) and 63-57 at Boise State on Sunday (Nov. 18). After Wednesday's game, Louisiana heads back on the road, playing at New Mexico State on Friday (Nov. 23) and No. 15 Michigan State on Sunday (Nov. 25). SUNO has opened the season with wins over Spring Hill (Ala.), (83-46) and Loyola, La. (78-70). The Knights went 17-13 last season.

 

The Cajuns have turned in a 31-13 record at the Cajundome since the 2009-10 season, which includes an impressive 21-4 mark against Sun Belt opponents. The Ragin' Cajuns are 21-9 (12-4 SBC) in the three seasons under Bob Marlin. Winning at home is nothing new as the Cajuns have recorded a winning record in 25 of the 27 seasons since the Cajundome opened its doors in the 1985-86 season. The Cajuns are currently on a string of 17 consecutive seasons with a .500 mark or better at the Cajundome. The Cajuns are 259-107 in games played in the Cajundome.

 

A win over SUNO on Wednesday would allow the Cajuns to claim back-to-back wins at home to open a season for the first time since 2003-04.

 

The Cajuns will be trying to make it a perfect two-for-two against first time opponents this year when SUNO visits the Cajundome. The Cajuns opened the year with a 90-79 win over Oakland, the only other first time opponent on the schedule. Despite their reasonably close proximity to Lafayette, the Cajuns and Knights have never met on the hardwood.

 

After averaging 64.0 points in road losses at Texas Southern (74-71) and Boise State (63-57), the Cajuns will be happy to get back to the Cajundome where they have thrived offensively this year. In the two games in the dome this year, The Cajuns have averaged 91.0 points a game, claiming a 92-72 exhibition win over Loyola-New Orleans and upending Oakland, 90-79. In the two games, the Cajuns have shot .544 from the field (68-125) and .471 from three-point (24-51), forcing 35 turnovers and handing out 35 assists.

 

The loss to Texas Southern marked the ninth time that the Cajuns have played to overtime under head coach Bob Marlin. The Cajuns are now 6-3 in overtime games during that span, including a 4-1 record last season.

 

Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks

ULM opened the 2012-13 season with an 85-51 loss at Oklahoma on Sunday … The Warhawks shot just 34.5 percent from the field and made 3 of 16 from 3-point range … Junior Amos Olatayo had an impressive debut for the Warhawks with 21 points, eight rebounds and three steals in 31 minutes of action … The 6-4 guard finished 7 of 15 from the field, 2 of 5 from 3-point range and 5 of 10 from the free-throw line ... Junior Jayon James added six points, five rebounds and led the team with four assists in his ULM debut … The Warhawks have a 13-day break before traveling to Louisiana Tech on Nov. 24 at 7 p.m.

 

Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders

Middle Tennessee trailed the No. 10 Florida Gators by three at halftime, but the Gators managed to pull away in the second half for a 66-45 win on Sunday at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. It was a back-and-forth contest early, with the first half featuring four ties and four lead changes, but Florida went on a 14-2 run to open the second half and never looked back. The Blue Raiders were led by Marcos Knight with 12 points and five rebounds, while Shawn Jones also cracked double figures with 10 points. JT Sulton grabbed five boards and Tweety Knight chipped in five assists. MT out-rebounded Florida, 34-32, but shot just 32 percent from the field while the Gators hit 46.7 percent of their shots. The Blue Raider bench outs-scored the Gator bench, 26-11.

 

With 10 of the top 12 scorers returning from last season's team, it's not surprise that MT has a deep bench. The Blue Raider bench currently owns a 126-44 advantage over its opponents.

 

After being hampered by a back injury throughout the 2011-12 season, senior guard Jason Jones picked up where he left off from his sophomore season. Jones was a perfect 9-for-9 from the field and led the Blue Raiders with 19 points in the season-opening win against Alabama State. As a sophomore, Jones led the team in scoring and rebounding with 13.7 points and 5.4 rebounds per game.

 

Two key newcomers wasted no time making an impact in their Blue Raider debuts against Alabama State. Junior guard Tweety Knight earned the start and collected a game-high five assists to go along with nine points and three rebounds. Junior forward Neiko Hunter came off the bench for nine points, three rebounds, two assists and a block.

 

The 97 points against Alabama State on Nov. 9 marked the most since MT scored 109 against Houston Baptist on Feb. 13, 2010. MT cracked the 90 plateau twice last season, scoring 90 against Austin Peay and 94 against ULM.

 

MT is one of just seven schools in the country with the football, men's and women's basketball teams each currently receiving votes or ranked in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Polls. MT represents the only non-AQ school in the mix, as Notre Dame, Texas, Louisville, Georgia, Stanford and UCLA are the only other schools to boast the accomplishment. The men's and women's basketball teams represent the only Sun Belt teams in their respective polls. It also marks the first time in Sun Belt history a school has had its football, men's and women's basketball teams receiving votes at the same time.

 

On the heels a record-breaking season, the 2012-13 Blue Raider men's basketball team is already receiving recognition in the USA Today coaches' poll. MT, the Sun Belt's only representative in the poll, received three votes in the preseason poll after finishing 27-7 last season and received one vote in the latest poll.

 

North Texas Mean Green

North Texas picked up three wins this week, including an 80-66 victory over IUPUI in the NIT Season Tip-Off Consolation Round on Monday night in Charlottesville, Va. On this three-game win streak, NT is averaging 77.3 points on 46.8 percent shooting. On the other side of the court, NT is holding its opponents to 58.0 points and 35.1 percent shooting. On this streak Tony Mitchell is leading the Mean Green in scoring (16.7), rebounding (8.7) and blocks (2.7), while Chris Jones is pouring in 7.3 assists per game.

 

With four blocks against IUPUI, Mitchell now has 83 career blocks, which passes Wendell Williams (81 from 1986-89) for fourth in school history. Mitchell now has 22 career multi-block games, and 10 games with four-plus swats.

 

After this trip to Virginia is finished, North Texas will have traveled over 4,200 miles through six games. The Mean Green will have been well traveled, with a night spent in each of the following states: Texas, Nebraska, Kansas, Virginia and Maryland.

 

The Mean Green wraps ups the road swing and the NIT Season Tip-Off on Tuesday night against Virginia, who took down Lamar on Monday evening.

 

South Alabama Jaguars

South Alabama won its 21st straight home opener last week, defeating William Carey 82-64.

 

The Jaguars last started 2-0 in the 1996-97 season. That team finished 23-7 and won the Sun Belt title en route to a berth in the NCAA Tournament.

 

USA dominated the second half against William Carey, outscoring the Crusaders 46-28 after halftime thanks to a 60.0 shooting percentage. The Jags went 0-for-6 from 3-point territory in the first half but hit six of their 12 long-range attempts in the second. Antoine Allen and Xavier Roberson combined to go 6 of 7 from distance in the second half.

 

The Jaguars were outrebounded by 15 vs. Tennessee State, the team's worst rebounding margin since Nov. 20, 2011

 

Despite missing the final 16 games of the 2011-12 season with a foot injury, Roberson has showed no sign of rust since his return. He is averaging 11.3 points in three games, including 15 vs. William Carey. All 15 of his points and all four of his 3-pointers came in the second half, and his 3-point total is a new career high. Roberson went 0-for-6 from the floor and 0-for-3 from 3-point territory in the first half. He had five assists and no turnovers in the season opener at FSU. Roberson's 15 points are his most since scoring 19 last Nov. 23 in an overtime win at LSU. He is converting 50 percent (6-12) from 3-point land.

 

Junior Augustine Rubit bounced back from an average performance at FSU with a game-high 20 points vs. William Carey and just missed a double-double with nine rebounds. He scored 16 of his 20 points in the first half, and with 3:58 left to play before halftime, accounted for half of the team's 32 points. He totaled 19 of his game-high 21 points vs. Tennessee State on Monday in the second half, shooting 7-for-9 from the floor. He went a perfect 7-for-7 from the charity stripe against the Tigers.

 

Senior Javier Carter extended his blocks streak to eight games in grand style, rejecting seven shots vs. William Carey. His total ranks in a tie for fifth in school history for a single game. He also dished out a career-high three assists (with no turnovers) and grabbed eight rebounds. His streak moved to nine games vs. Tennessee State with two rejections.

 

Sophomore Mychal Ammons recorded his third straight double-double last Wednesday with 19 points and a career-high 13 rebounds. He did not have a double-double in his first 28 career games but had three in a row before the streak ended with 11 points and seven boards vs. Tennessee State. He is averaging 15.1 points and 8.4 rebounds in his last 12 games.

 

Troy Trojans

The Trojans picked up a split in their first two games at the sub-regional site for the CBE Hall of Fame Classic, falling to Louisiana Tech and defeating the host, Chattanooga. Troy got down early and couldn't recover against the Bulldogs, eventually falling 70-46. Westley Hinton scored 12 points off the bench, including three 3-pointers.

 

Troy fared much better on Monday, defeating the Chattanooga Mocs 68-61. The first half was a back-and-forth battle, as was the beginning of the second, but the Trojans took control in the final minutes and held on at the end. Antoine Myers scored a team-high 13 points, while R.J. Scott scored 12 in limited minutes. Deonata Jethroe scored 11 points and grabbed three rebounds in his first collegiate start.

 

Troy finishes up at the CBE Hall of Fame Classic on Tuesday against Southeast Missouri at 3:30 p.m. central.

 

WKU Hilltoppers

WKU went 2-0 last week in games that were part of the mainland portion of the 2012 Cancun Challenge, defeating Austin Peay, 74-54, on Tuesday and beating Western Carolina, 92-81 on Saturday. The Hilltoppers are 2-1 on the season and head to Cancun for two more games in the tournament, playing Iowa on Tuesday and then either Wichita State or DePaul on Wednesday. The win against Western Carolina was WKU's seventh-straight at home, tying its longest streak since the 2009-10 season. The Hilltoppers also scored their most points in a game since 2010 against the Catamounts, and guards Jamal Crook and T.J. Price each set career highs with 26 points. The Cancun Challenge is WKU's eight different early-season tournament in the last eight seasons, and the Hilltoppers are 10-11 in early-season tournaments since 2005-06. WKU is the first Sun Belt Conference school to compete in the Cancun Challenge. After the two games in Mexico, WKU returns home to face Brescia (Ky.) on Saturday, before opening conference play at ULM and at Troy the following week.

 

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