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Sun Belt Conference Men's Basketball news and notes

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Around the Sun Belt Conference

As Sun Belt Conference play started this past week, four teams got off on the right foot with unblemished records. UALR, South Alabama and WKU all stand at 2-0, while Middle Tennessee one its only conference game last week to go to 1-0. More importantly, one of the biggest Sun Belt records was broken.

 

South Alabama's 79-68 win over FIU Saturday gave Ronnie Arrow his 112th career Sun Belt victory, passing Gene Bartow for the most league history. Arrow is 112-84 in conference play in 14 seasons at South Alabama.

 

USA is 2-0 in the Sun Belt for the first time since the 2009-10 season.

 

Over their last two first halves, the Jaguars have converted 15 of 31 (48.4%) from 3-point land, enabling the team to jump out to an average halftime lead of 9.5 points. Saturday USA went 8-for-16 outside the arc before halftime as Mychal Ammons (4-for-6), Antoine Allen (2-for-2) and Freddie Goldstein (2-for-3) each hit multiple treys. Thursday at FAU, Xavier Roberson hit all of his career-high five triples in the first half and Goldstein added two more.

 

WKU opened the conference season with two wins for the first time in three seasons over the weekend, winning at ULM on Thursday night, 65-54, and defeating Troy, 75-71, on Saturday night after trailing by 13 in the second half. WKU has now won eight of the last 12 games it has trailed at halftime and 13 of 16 overall, and the win at Troy was WKU's first at Troy in the last four tries.

 

UALR improved to 6-3 overall and got off to a 2-0 start in Sun Belt Conference play with wins at home over Troy (Nov. 29) and ULM (Dec. 1) last week. The wins kept the Trojans perfect (5-0) at the Jack Stephens Center this season. Over its last six games, UALR is 5-1 and holding its opponents to an average of 57.2 points per game and 39.3 percent shooting from the field

 

Middle Tennessee has picked up where it left off last season after setting the school record with 11 road wins. The Blue Raiders are off to a 3-2 start on the road this year, including one victory in Sun Belt play. MT has won 47 league road games under the direction of Kermit Davis, the most among any conference school.

 

All ten Blue Raiders that saw action at Louisiana-Lafayette on Nov. 29 also scored in the contest. Through seven games, five different Blue Raiders have been the leading scorer and seven Blue Raiders have combined for 19 double-figure scoring performances.

 

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

 

T.J. Price (WKU, So., G)

WKU sophomore guard T.J. Price had an incredible week for the Hilltoppers, helping the squad start the Sun Belt Conference season with a perfect 2-0 mark for the first time in three seasons. Price averaged 26.5 points and 8.5 rebounds per game last week, scoring a career high 30 on 10-of-19 shooting with five three-pointers at ULM on Thursday and following it up with 23 points and 11 rebounds at Troy on Saturday. He played 39 minutes in each of the two games and finished the week converting on 54.3 percent of his shots and hitting eight three-pointers. The double-double at Troy was the first of his young Hilltopper career.

 

Upcoming Games

 

12/4/2012

St. Gregory's at UALR - 5:15 PM

New Mexico State at South Alabama - 7:05 PM

 

12/5/2012

UAB at Middle Tennessee - 7:00 PM (ESPN3)

S. Illinois at WKU - 7:00 PM (HSSN/ESPN3)

North Texas at St. Louis - 7:00 PM (Fox Sports Ohio)

 

12/6/2012

UALR at Cincinnati - 6:00 PM (Fox Sports Ohio)

Florida Atlantic at Stetson - 6:00 PM

 

12/8/2012

St. Bonaventure at Arkansas State - 2:05 PM

IUPUI at WKU - 3:00 PM (HSSN/ESPN3)

Ole Miss a Middle Tennessee - 4:00 PM (ESPN3)

Utah Valley State at Troy - 7:00 PM

Jackson State at North Texas - 7:00 PM

UL-Lafayette at McNeese St. - 7:00 PM

South Alabama at UAB - 7:00 PM

 

Recent Results

 

11/28/2012

UT Arlington 72, North Texas 59

 

11/29/2012

* South Alabama 77, Florida Atlantic 66 

* FIU 80, Arkansas State 61 

* Middle Tennessee 72, Louisiana-Lafayette 58 

* UALR 58, Troy 56 

* WKU 65, Louisiana-Monroe 54 

 

12/1/2012

* South Alabama 79, FIU 68

* UALR 83, Louisiana-Monroe 58 

* Florida Atlantic 72, Arkansas State 65

* Louisiana-Lafayette 80, North Texas 76 

* WKU 75, Troy 71 

 

12/2/2012

Akron 82, Middle Tennessee 77 (OT)

 

Team News and Notes

 

UALR Trojans

UALR improved to 6-3 overall and got off to a 2-0 start in Sun Belt Conference play with wins at home over Troy (Nov. 29) and ULM (Dec. 1) last week … The wins kept the Trojans perfect (5-0) at the Jack Stephens Center this season … On Thursday, UALR shot 57.9 percent and outscored Troy (4-4, 0-1 SBC) 30-to-23 over the final 20 minutes to win its Sun Belt Conference opener by a 58-56 final at the Jack Stephens Center … Junior Will Neighbour reached double figures in scoring for the fifth-straight game and tallied his second double-double of the year with a 14-point, 11-rebound effort … Both teams finished the game shooting below 40 percent from the field, but UALR was able to knock down 14-of-22 free throws, while Troy finished the night just 2-of-2 from the foul line … UALR finished with four players in double figures for the third time this season … In addition to Neighbour's 14, junior Leroy Isler finished with 12 points, while sophomore Taggart Lockhart and freshman James White chipped in 11 and 10, respectively … On Saturday, Sophomore Ben Dillard came off the bench to score a career-high 17 points on 5-of-10 shooting to lead UALR to an 83-58 win over ULM (0-4, 0-2 SBC) Saturday night at the Jack Stephens Center … The Trojan defense held ULM to 38.9 percent (21-of-54) shooting from the field and set a new season high with 10 made three pointers on the night … UALR finished the game shooting 47.2 percent (25-of-53) from the field and 43.5 percent (10-of-23) from three-point range … The Trojans tied a season high with 17 assists on 25 made baskets and set new season bests for free throw percentage (79.3 percent) and made free throws (23-of-29) … With the victories, UALR improved to 5-0 on the season when holding their opponents to fewer than 60 points and 5-1 when keeping opponents under 40 percent shooting … UALR's scoring defense (63.7 ppg) currently ranks third in the Sun Belt Conference … The Trojans' three-point defense (28.9 percent) ranks second in the SBC … No UALR opponent has shot better than 37.5 percent from three-point range against the Trojans this season … Over its last six games, UALR is 5-1 and holding its opponents to an average of 57.2 points per game and 39.3 percent shooting from the field … This week, UALR will play host to NAIA member St. Gregory's on Tuesday before traveling to Cincinnati to take on the Bearcats on Thursday.

 

Arkansas State Red Wolves

Senior forward Brandon Peterson registered his third double-double of this season with 10 points and rebounds apiece at Florida Atlantic on Saturday (12/1). Peterson, who totaled 10 points with nine boards at FIU last Thursday (11/29), tallied his first double-double of 2012-13 against Arkansas-Monticello (11/13) with a 12-point, 15-rebound performance. He netted 12 points and grabbed 13 boards against Lamar (11/25) for his second double-double of this campaign. The Red Wolves frontcourt player is also midst a current six game streak for double-digit points and is averaging 11.5 points a game (69 total) during that span.

 

Junior guard Ed Townsel had his season-opening six-game double-figure points streak snapped after posting five points at Florida Atlantic (12/1). Townsel tallied double-digit points in each of his initial six contests this season, highlighted by a career game-high 27 points against Lamar (11/25). He accumulated 11 double-digit scoring contests a season ago in 34 games, which included a six-game string (11/29-12/17).

 

Brandon Peterson's 10 rebounds at Florida Atlantic (12/1) moved him into 10th place on ASU's all-time rebounding leaders list with 656 career boards to date in 103 contests. Peterson surpassed Jim Ward's (1953-55) 650 career caroms.

 

Freshman guard Raeford Worsham has produced double-figure points in three of his last four outings as a result of compiling 10 points off the bench at Florida Atlantic (12/1). Worsham, who went scoreless at FIU (11/29), scored a season-most 18 points at Central Arkansas (11/21) and had 13 points versus Lamar (11/25).

 

Florida Atlantic Owls

Mike Jarvis became the winningest coach in the Division I era at FAU with a 72-65 win over Arkansas State on Saturday. He passed Sidney Green for the most wins in school history at the Division I level. Greg Gantt scored 29 points in both of the Owls' games this week, tying his career high on both occasions. Gantt is now second in school history in three pointers made, third in career field goals made and fourth in in school history in points. Freshman Stefan Moody averaged 19 points in FAU's two games this week. The Owls' game at Stetson is their first road game since a game at Elon on November 18. FAU still has never lost to Arkansas State at home after Saturday's victory (five games). The Owls travel to Stetson on Thursday before returning to Boca on Sunday to host Warner.

 

FIU Panthers

The FIU men's basketball team (2-3, 1-1 SBC), split its Sun Belt Conference opening weekend with an 80-61 win over Arkansas State on Thursday, Nov. 29, and a 79-68 loss to South Alabama on Saturday, Dec. 1.

 

Junior Tymell Murphy finished the week with a pair of career first, scoring 22 points versus the Red Wolves (first 20-point outing) and notching a double-double (16 pts, 10 reb.) versus the Jaguars (first-career double-double). Murphy enters the week averaging 14.4 points-per-game (No. 10 in the conference) and 6.0 rebounds-per-contest (tied for No. 17 in the conference). Murphy is also shooting 62.7 percent (32-of-51) from the floor, good for No. 2 in the conference. Leading the team in scoring is junior Malik Smith, who is averaging 15.0 points-per-game (tied for No. 7 in the conference). Smith has posted double-figures in scoring in each of the team's first five games this season, including a pair of 11-point outings this past week. Freshman Jerome Frink comes into this week's averaging 10.0 points-per-game (tied for No. 28 in the conference) and leads the team in rebounding, grabbing 6.6 boards-per-game (No. 11 in the conference).

 

FIU comes into this week's action averaging 73.0 points-per-game (No. 2 in the conference) while shooting 44.4 percent (128-of-288) from the floor (No. 1 in the conference). The Panthers are converting 36.5 percent (35-of-96) of their shots from 3-point range (No. 4 in the conference) and 74.7 percent (74-of-99) of their attempts from the free-throw line (No. 2 in the conference). Defensively, FIU is allowing 74.0 points-per-game (No. 10 in the conference) as the opposition is shooting 47.7 percent from the field (No. 11 in the conference).

 

The Panthers will face the Stetson Hatters on Sunday, Dec. 9, at the Edmunds Center in DeLand, Fla. Game time is set for 2 p.m. ET and will mark the first meeting between the two teams since 1997-1998 season.

 

Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns

Louisiana Men's Basketball Notes for Dec. 4, 2012

 

After a busy stretch of eight games in 20 days to start the 2012-13 season, the Ragin' Cajuns are scheduled for just three games through Saturday, Dec. 15. The team is off this week as the University administers Fall semester 2012 final exams. Next outing takes place this Saturday at McNeese State.

 

For the 15th consecutive season Louisiana-Lafayette and McNeese State meet on the basketball court, continuing the series which resumed in the 1998-99 season after being dormant for the previous six seasons. Louisiana-Lafayette owns a 9-5 edge in the current chapter of the series (1-1 under Bob Marlin).

 

Saturday's McNeese State game marks the start of the Cajuns final venture into non-conference action for 2012-13. Louisiana-Lafayette has five non-conference games remaining: at McNeese (Dec. 8), vs. Lamar (Dec. 11), at Houston (Dec. 15), vs. Robert Morris (Dec. 18) and vs. Duquesne (Dec. 22). Sun Belt play resumes in earnest on Thursday, Dec. 27 in Jonesoboro, Ark. against Arkansas State.

 

The Ragin' Cajuns coaching staff once again had the perfect game plan for controlling North Texas' All-American candidate Tony Mitchell. The Cajuns - mainly Shawn Long - held Mitchell to only one field goal attempt in 25 minutes of action Saturday at The Super Pit. It marked the third time in four meetings that Marlin's Cajuns held Mitchell to single digits in points.

 

Continuing the team's excellent performance from the charity stripe in the final 5:00 and overtime of games this season, Louisiana-Lafayette made six consecutive free throws in the final 15 seconds at North Texas with the lead either one or two points.

 

Shawn Long has splashed onto the scene putting up points at will. The redshirt freshman from Morgan City, La., has produced 20-plus points three times in just eight games. He's on pace to record the most 20-plus point performances since former Sun Belt Player of the Year Tyren Johnson scored 20-plus 12 times in 2009-10.

 

After starting the season with six of the first nine games on the road (including Saturday's McNeese game), Louisiana-Lafayette is set to enjoy the friendly confines of the Cajundome. Following the McNeese contest, the Ragin' Cajuns play four of the remaining six games in December at home. Once January begins, it's an even mix between home and road games.

 

Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks

ULM (0-4, 0-2 SBC) opened conference play with losses to Western Kentucky (65-54) and UALR (83-58) this past week … The Warhawks got a season-best 21 points from junior guard Amos Olatayo against the Hilltoppers on Nov. 29, but Western Kentucky closed the game on a 10-3 run in the last five minutes to seal the victory … ULM hit a season-high nine 3-pointers against UALR two nights later, however the Trojans broke open a close game at halftime with 51 second-half points … Junior forward Jayon James netted a career-high 15 points to go with four assists and a steal, while junior guard Marcelis Hansberry came off the bench to score 14 points … The Warhawks have struggled from the free-throw line this season, shooting just 51.6 percent (32-of-62) … ULM has a nine-day break before hosting Southeastern Louisiana on Dec. 10 and Southern on Dec. 13.

 

Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders

Raymond Cintron scored a career-high 22 points, but Middle Tennessee fell short to the Akron Zips, 82-77 in overtime, at Rhodes Arena. Cintron's 6-for-6 performance at the line was crucial, as he sank three consecutive free throws with 14 seconds remaining to tie the game at 70 and send it to overtime. The San Juan, Puerto Rico, native scored 11 of his points in the first half, hitting a trio of 3-pointers in the early stanza.

 

Marcos Knight matched his career-high of 21 points, scoring 18 of his points in the second half. Knight went on a tear out of the break, reeling off the Blue Raiders' first 12 points of the latter frame. Knight scored 10 unanswered over the first five minutes of the half to give MT its largest lead of the game at 43-36. The two teams battled back and forth throughout the contest, combining for 14 ties and 14 lead changes.

 

With 10 of the top 12 scorers returning from last season's team, it's no surprise that MT has a deep bench. The Blue Raider bench currently owns a 271-93 advantage over its opponents.

 

The Blue Raiders have out-rebounded their opponent in all five contests this season. MT currently owns a 267-210 rebounding advantage, an average of 38.1 compared to 30.0.

 

Shawn Jones raked in the Sun Belt and Tennessee Sports Writers Association Player of the Week awards on Nov. 27 after posting a pair of double-doubles against UCF and Texas Southern. He tallied 18 points and 13 rebounds, both career-highs, in a 75-61 win over UCF on Tuesday. The Hialeah, Fla., native followed that up by setting a new career-high with 21 points and also grabbed 12 boards in a 79-52 victory over Texas Southern on Saturday. For the week, Jones averaged 19.5 points and 12.5 rebounds while shooting 66.7 percent from the field. He is the only Blue Raider to start every game this season and has scored double figures in three of the last five games.

 

MT has picked up where it left off last season after setting the school record with 11 road wins. The Blue Raiders are off to a 3-2 start on the road this year, including one victory in Sun Belt play. MT has won 47 league road games under the direction of Kermit Davis, the most among any conference school.

 

All 10 Blue Raiders that saw action at Louisiana on Nov. 29 also scored in the contest. Through seven games, five different Blue Raiders have been the leading scorer and seven Blue Raiders have combined for 19 double-figure scoring performances.

 

MT is currently ranked 50th according to the Pomeroy College Basketball Ratings. The Blue Raiders are the highest ranked Sun Belt team. UAB enters Wednesday contest at No. 136.

 

North Texas Mean Green

The Mean Green opened Sun Belt play with an 80-76 loss to Louisiana-Lafayette at home on Saturday, but has a chance to rebound at Saint Louis on Tuesday night and at home against Jackson State on Saturday. The Mean Green has won three straight matchups against the Billikens, although the last meeting came in 1981.

 

With 93 career swats, Tony Mitchell jumped past his former teammate Kedrick Hogans (91 blocks, 2008-12) for third place in NT history. Mitchell has at least two blocks in each of the last 12 games. The sophomore is only 26 blocks shy of the school career record (119 - Jeffrey Simpson, 2004-06) despite playing in just 31 career games.

 

Tony Benford emphasizes paint touches in his offensive philosophy, and NT's ability to score in the lane goes a long way in the final score. In victories, NT is averaging 38.7 points in the pain, while that figure drops to 27.6 in losses – a difference of 11.1 per game.

 

Justin Patton, who had arthroscopic knee surgery on Oct. 25, had a breakout game against Louisiana on Saturday. The senior poured in eight points on 4-of-6 shooting, and added three steals in just 10 minutes. Patton, the SWAC's leading rebounder in his final season at Grambling State (7.1 RPG in 2010-11), describes his knee's recovery process as "90 percent".

 

Roger Franklin has been NT's best shooter this year, and ranks third in the Sun Belt with a 58.0 field goal percentage.

 

NT has 10-plus fast break points in four straight games, and is averaging 11.1 per game this year.

 

Alzee Williams leads NT with 31.8 minutes a game, but has just five total turnovers - an average of one every 51.7 minutes.

 

South Alabama Jaguars

South Alabama's 79-68 win over FIU Saturday gave Ronnie Arrow his 112th career Sun Belt victory, passing Gene Bartow for the most league history. Arrow is 112-84 in conference play in 14 seasons at South Alabama.

 

USA is 2-0 in the Sun Belt for the first time since the 2009-10 season.

 

Over their last two first halves, the Jaguars have converted 15 of 31 (48.4%) from 3-point land, enabling the team to jump out to an average halftime lead of 9.5 points. Saturday USA went 8-for-16 outside the arc before halftime as Mychal Ammons (4-for-6), Antoine Allen (2-for-2) and Freddie Goldstein (2-for-3) each hit multiple treys. Thursday at FAU, Xavier Roberson hit all of his career-high five triples in the first half and Goldstein added two more.

 

The Jags have taken over the top spot in the Sun Belt rankings in 3-point percentage (40.0%) and are third in 3-pointers per game (7.4). Ammons is second in 3-point percentage (52.9%) and Roberson is tied for third (50.0%). Roberson is also tied for second in 3s per contest (3.1).

 

USA's excellence from long range has helped the team be the top scoring offense in the Sun Belt. The Jaguars are averaging 73.6 ppg, including a 78.0 per game average in their last two outings.

 

On Saturday Augustine Rubit just missed on extending his double-double streak to four straight games with 19 points and nine rebounds, but he moved into a tie for sixth place at South Alabama in career rebounds (639) and 17th place in career points (942). He is five points away from 16th and 19 from 15th. He needs 10 rebounds to take over fifth place at USA for a career.

 

Rubit is in a tie for first in the conference in scoring (19.1 ppg) and second in rebounding (9.0 rpg). A career 69.7 percent free throw shooter in his career coming in to the season, Rubit has converted 90.5 percent (38-42) at the line in 2012-13, tops in the Sun Belt. He has made 30 of his last 31 at the line. His next made free throw will move him into a tie for 10th in school history.

 

Ammons saw his scoring output drop from 15 points to a season-low three over a three-game span, but he reversed that trend Saturday with a game-high 21 points while setting new career highs in 3-pointers (five) and blocks (five). He had 12 of those points in the first half, all coming from behind the 3-point arc.

 

New Mexico State's Daniel Mullings leads the team in scoring (14.0 ppg), rebounding (6.6 rpg), 3-point percentage (53.8%) and steals (17), and is second in 3-pointers (7), assists (21) and field goal percentage (52.8%). He had 21 points and 11 rebounds Saturday vs. Southern Miss, shooting 9-for-10 from the free throw line.

 

The Aggies rank second in the WAC in scoring defense (60.5 ppg), third in field goal percentage defense (38.8%) and first in 3-point defense (27.2%).

 

Troy Trojans

Troy suffered three losses last week. The Trojans were defeated by UAB, 75-55, and conference foes UALR, 56-58, and WKU, 71-75. Troy had an opportunity to tie both of the Sun Belt games and force overtime, but the final shots went begging.

 

Troy had its best shooting night of the season against WKU, hitting 5.19 percent of its shots (27-of-52). Three Trojans tied or set new career-highs in points, in Antoine Myers, Deonata Jethroe and Josh Warren. It was the first time this season that the Trojans scored at least 70 points, ending a streak of eight consecutive games, the longest streak under Don Maestri.

 

Troy held a big lead against WKU, but scored just five points in the final 9:57, before falling by four. The Trojans also held a lead at UALR, but a late collapse sank them.

 

Troy is now 0-2 in the Sun Belt for the fifth time in eight years. Last season, Troy picked up its first Sun Belt win on its fourth try, against Western Kentucky, before finishing 5-11 in conference play.

The Trojans have a short week, with just one game against Utah Valley on the schedule. The Wolverines come to town on Saturday, December 8, with tip-off set for 7 p.m.

 

WKU Hilltoppers

WKU opened the conference season with two wins for the first time in three seasons over the weekend, winning at ULM on Thursday night, 65-54, and defeating Troy, 75-71, on Saturday night after trailing by 13 in the second half. WKU has now won eight of the last 12 games it has trailed at halftime and 13 of 16 overall, and the win at Troy was WKU's first at Troy in the last four tries. The Hilltoppers saw T.J. Price explode offensively for 30 points at ULM and 23 at Troy, and he averaged 8.5 rebounds per game in the two contests. George Fant contributed 13.0 points and 8.0 rebounds per game, and he shot 60.0 percent from the field. The Hilltoppers held a 14.0 rebound per game advantage over their opponents, and WKU averaged less than 14 points per game. After the 2-0 start to league play, WKU ducks out of conference for five more games, beginning Wednesday against Southern Illinois and Saturday against IUPUI.

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