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Sun Belt Men's Basketball news and notes

From the Sun Belt Conference

Around the Sun Belt Conference
Georgia State is currently riding a nine-game winning streak, the second-longest in program history. It is the longest winning streak for GSU since winning a school-record 11-straight during the 2011-12 season, head coach Ron Hunter's first year at GSU. The Panthers have also won seven-straight at home, tied for the fourth longest home-court winning streak in the history of the program.
Aside from Georgia State, UL Monroe wast the league's only other team to win both of its conference games this past week. The Warhawks won both games on the road and used a pair of big second halves to defeat Troy (75-64) and South Alabama (64-58). The Warhawks were tied with Troy at the intermission and trailed South Alabama by seven before winning both contests.
ULM's Tylor Ongwae has reached double-figures in 11 of 13 games this season and has reached that plateau in all five conference games. He has also led the team in scoring in all five league games. Ongwae averages a team-high 15.8 points per contest on the season, and 21.0 ppg in conference action (second in the league).
This upcoming Saturday will see WKU visit UL Lafayette in a nationally televised affair on ESPN2. It will be a tough week for the Cajuns, who host league leader GSU on Thursday before facing the two-time defending Sun Belt Tournament Champion HIlltoppers. The good news for the Cajuns is that both games will be at home and they are in the midst of an eight game home win streak at the Cajundome.
The Hilltoppers, meanwhile, split a pair of Sun Belt Conference home games last week that both needed extra time, as UALR picked up an 87-83 overtime win over WKU on Thursday before the Hilltoppers responded with an 82-77 double-overtime victory over Arkansas State on Saturday.

Player of the Week
R.J. Hunter (Georgia State, So., G)
R.J. Hunter led the Panthers to a pair of wins on the week, including a game-winner with 11.1 seconds to play against Arkansas State. Hunter averaged 24.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.0 steals, shooting 17-of-31 (54.8) from the floor, 9-of-19 from 3-point range and a perfect 5-of-5 from the free throw line, extending his school-record to 30-straight free throw makes. He opened the week scoring 23 points and grabbing six rebounds against Arkansas State, making a baseline jumper with 11.1 seconds to play to secure the win. He went 9-of-17 from the floor and swiped three steals in the win. On Saturday, he helped the Panthers cruise to a 99-73 victory over UALR. Playing just 29 minutes, Hunter scored 25 points on 8-of-14 shooting, going 6-of-10 from 3-point range and swiping three steals.

Recent Results
January 16
* Georgia State 73, Arkansas State 72
* UALR 87, Western Kentucky 83
* South Alabama 81, UL Lafayette 73
* UL Monroe 75, Troy 64

January 18
* Georgia State 99, UALR 73
* UT Arlington 56, Texas State 48
* WKU 82, Arkansas State77 (2OT)
* UL Lafayette 72, Troy 59
* UL Monroe 64, South Alabama 58
Upcoming Games
January 23
* Texas State at UALR - 7:00 PM
* WKU at UL Monroe - 7:00 PM
* Georgia State at UL Lafayette - 7:15 PM
* Troy at UT Arlington - 8:00 PM (Sun Belt Network)

January 25
* WKU at UL Lafayette - 3:00 PM (ESPN2)
* Georgia State at UL Monroe - 4:00 PM
* Troy at Texas State - 4:30 PM
* UALR at Arkansas State - 7:05 PM
* South Alabama at UT Arlington - 7:30 PM
NOTE: All Game times are Central and Subject to Change
Team News and Notes

UALR Trojans
UALR split a pair of Sun Belt Conference road games at Western Kentucky and Georgia State over the most-recent reporting week. The Trojans knocked off preseason favorite WKU 87-83 in overtime at E.A. Diddle Arena on Thursday before falling 99-73 to Georgia State at GSU Sports Arena on Saturday.
Senior Will Neighbour led four Trojans in double figures with a career-best 32 points on 11-of-14 shooting at WKU on Thursday. Neighbour's 32-point performance was the first 30-point outing by a UALR player since Brandon Freeman scored 32 against FIU on Jan. 30, 2005. With seven boards on the night, Neighbour became just the 15th player in program history to surpass the 500-rebound milestone.
Sophomore James White added 10 rebounds to go along with 14 points for his second career double-double. Sophomore Kemy Osse scored 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting in 22 minutes off the bench. Sophomore Josh Hagins scored his 15 points on 5-of-11 shooting from the floor and 2-of-3 from 3-point range.
As a team, UALR finished the night shooting 32 of 55 from the floor (58.2 percent), 5 of 9 from 3-point range (55.6 percent) and 18 of 23 from the foul line (78.3 percent).
UALR and Georgia State entered Saturday's matchup as the only two teams in the Sun Belt with four wins, but GSU built a quick lead and was never truly challenged in the contest. The Panthers scored the first 11 points of the game and never looked back, taking a 59-29 lead into halftime and growing its margin as large as 35 a little over two minutes into the second half.
The Trojans outscored the Panthers 44-40 over the final 20 minutes, but the 30-point halftime deficit proved far too much to overcome.
Arkansas State Red Wolves
Senior guard Ed Townsel is two points away from registering his 1,000th career point and presently has accumulated 998 points in 114 career appearances. Townsel, who has compiled a team sixth-best 131 points in 17 games this season to date, would become the 26th A-State player to reach the milestone. The backcourt player is also 15 points shy of tying Jabari Myles (1994-98; 1,013 career points) for 25th-place on the program's all-time scoring leaders list.
Senior forward Kendrick Washington has reached double-figure scoring in six of his last eight contests, which includes a career-best 20 points at WKU last Saturday (1/18). Washington, whose previous career single-game best was 16 points versus Niagara this season (12/2), is averaging 10.9 points an outing (87 pts.) during the eight-game span. In those eight contests, Washington has connected on 61.4 percent (35-57) of his shots from the floor.
Senior forward Kirk Van Slyke extended his current double-digit points string to 10 consecutive games (12/14-1/18) following a 14-points performance at WKU (1/18). Van Slyke has produced a 19.2 points per contest average (192 pts.) in those 10 outings. He has reached double-figure scoring in 16 of A-State's 17 games this season and began the 2013-14 campaign by tallying double digits in his initial six contests.
Kendrick Washington is 20 rebounds shy of equaling his 123 boards total in 27 contests a season ago. Washington, who averaged 4.6 rebounds per contest last season, has accumulated 103 caroms for a 6.4 average in 16 outings this campaign. He's also 31 points away from matching his 183 points scored in 27 encounters last season and currently has chalked up a squad fourth-most 152 points in 16 2013-14 season appearances.
Ed Townsel moved into sole possession of fourth place on A-State's all-time steals leaders list with 154 career thefts in 114 games after garnering three steals at WKU (1/18). Townsel, who has 20 steals in 17 games this campaign, surpassed Kim Adams (2001-04; 151 career steals) is now seven away from tying Trey Finn's (2009-13) third-place 161 career assists total.
Georgia State Panthers
Georgia State is currently riding a nine-game winning streak, the second-longest in program history. It is the longest winning streak for GSU since winning a school-record 11-straight during the 2011-12 season, head coach Ron Hunter's first year at GSU. The Panthers have also won seven-straight at home, tied for the fourth longest home-court winning streak in the history of the program. After starting the season 0-5 on the road, the Panthers have won four-straight, the longest road streak since a pair of four-game streaks during the 2011-12 season.
Georgia State is the only team in the country to already have a two-game lead in the loss column in its conference standings. GSU leads UALR by 1.5 games just five games into the season.
The Panthers' streak of 38-straight made free throws finally game to an end against Arkansas State. It fell 12 shy of Wake Forest's NCAA record of 50-straight makes during the 2005 season.
R.J. Hunter enters this week having made a school-record 30-straight free throw attempts. Hunter leads the Sun Belt shooting 90.5-percent from the line. He has made 31-of-32 free throws in Sun Belt action.
In the Panthers route of UALR on Saturday, all-five Panther starters scored in double figures, led by R.J. Hunter with 25 and senior Manny Atkins with 22. Atkins went 8-of-14 from the floor and knocked down four 3-pointers. He is ranked No. 2 in Georgia State history in 3-point shooting, knocking down 42.8-percent for his career.
With 11 points on Saturday, senior Devonta White moved into 11th-place and passed Shellord Pinkett on Georgia State's all-time scoring list. White has 1,177 career points and should finish his career among the top-5 in program history.

UL-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns
The Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns (12-6, 3-2) return home for what is perhaps their most demanding home stand of the year, playing a pair of games against the Sun Belt front runners. The Cajuns open the week on Thursday when they host league-leader Georgia State (12-6, 5-0) at 7:15 p.m. in the Cajundome before hosting two-time defending SBC tournament champion WKU in a 3 p.m. CST game that will be broadcast nationally on ESPN2. The Cajuns begin the week in third place in the Sun Belt after splitting a pair of road games last week. The game with GSU will be the fifth meeting between the schools. The series is tied at 2-2 with the home team winning each game.
There was plenty of optimism by the Cajuns heading into the season and through 18 games, that optimism has proven to be warranted. After 18 games last season, the Cajuns posted a 6-12 record, standing in fourth place in the West Division (and 10th overall of 11 teams) with a 2-5 league mark. After Saturday's win at Troy, the exact opposite is true as the Cajuns own a 12-6 record and are in third place in the Sun Belt with a 3-2 mark.
When UL Lafayette hosts first-place Georgia State on Thursday, the Cajuns will be putting their modest eight-game home winning streak on the line. The streak, which began with a 101-67 win over Louisiana College in the season opener, is the sixth-longest home streak since UL Lafayette moved into the Cajundome for the 1985-86 season. It equals the eight-game streak that the Cajuns registered from January, 2011 through early November, 2012. It is the longest home win streak since the Cajuns rattled off 10 straight from January, 2003 through December, 2004, the last of which was a 67-50 win over Georgia State (12/20/04). The Cajundome record is a 21-game streak from December, 2001 until February, 2003.
Shawn Long has made the most of his rebounding opportunities this year, scoring 39 baskets off his 68 offensive rebounds this season for an average of 4.3 points a game. Long ranks third in the Sun Belt averaging 3.8 offensive rebounds a game and second in scoring (20.8).
UL-Monroe Warhawks
ULM had a 2-0 week on that road and used a pair of big second halves to defeat Troy (75-64) and South Alabama (64-58). The Warhawks were tied with Troy at the intermission and trailed South Alabama by seven before winning both contests
The Warhawks have won consecutive road games for the first time since the 2002-03 season when it won three in a row with wins over UTSA, Northwestern State and Southeastern La.
The seven-point halftime deficit against South Alabama was the largest ULM has overcome this season in a victory. It trailed by six at Northwestern State on Nov. 21 before coming back to win in overtime
ULM is above .500 in conference play after five games for the first time since 2006-07 when it started 4-1 and went on to win the SBC West Division title
Junior Tylor Ongwae has reached double-figures in 11 of 13 games this season and has reached that plateau in all five conference games. He has also led the team in scoring in all five league games. Ongwae averages a team-high 15.8 points per contest on the season, and 21.0 ppg in conference action (second in the league)
Senior Amos Olatayo posted his 10th double-figure scoring game of the season against South Alabama and the 27th of his career. He scored 11 of his 12 points in the second half
Freshman Nick Coppola matched his career-high with 10 points and played 40 minutes in both contests
ULM's seven turnovers against the Jaguars were its fewest in a game this season
South Alabama Jaguars
South Alabama's game on Saturday will be the 1,300th in school history.
The meeting with Texas-Arlington will be the first between the two schools since 2003 and the second since the 1981 NIT.
The Jaguars snapped a six-game losing streak—the longest by the program since 2004-05—with an 81-73 win over Louisiana-Lafayette last Thursday.
The Jaguars won vs. ULL despite turning the ball over 26 times, the most by the program since Nov. 18, 2001. The team turned it over 30 times in their previous three games combined and entered the contest with 11.5 miscues per game, third fewest in the Sun Belt.
The Ragin' Cajuns were held to 12 points under their season scoring average (85.0) coming in to the contest. The Jaguars have held each of their first six Sun Belt opponents to at least 4.2 points under their average entering the game.
Augustine Rubit averaged 19.5 points and 10.5 rebounds last week, including a 21-point performance in the ULL win. He recorded his eighth double-double of the season vs. UL Monroe with 18 points and 12 rebounds. He moved into 23rd place in Sun Belt history for career points (1,706) against ULM. If he scores 20 points Saturday, he will move into a tie for fourth place in school history and will jump up to 20th in the league record books.
Rubit's double-double was the 50th in his career, which is the most among all active Division I players. He needs two more to tie Terry Catledge for the most at South Alabama.
Rubit set his third school record against ULL this season, becoming the Jaguars' all-time leader in free throw attempts. He previous set new school marks for rebounds and free throws made. He is third among active DI players in both free throws made (502) and attempted (690).

UT Arlington Mavericks
UT Arlington returns to College Park Center for a two-game Sun Belt Conference homestand against Troy (Thursday, 8 p.m.) and South Alabama (Saturday, 7:30 p.m.). The Mavericks are 5-3 at home, including 1-2 in league play.
UT Arlington leaned on its defense for the first time this season to grind out a crucial 56-48 victory over longtime rival Texas State on Saturday afternoon at Strahan Coliseum. UTA has beaten Texas State five straight times dating back to both programs being in the Southland Conference. The Mavericks won despite shooting 39 percent by clamping down defensively. Texas State was held to a season low in scoring by a UT Arlington opponent and the Bobcats shot 32.1 percent. Senior guard Reger Dowell, back after missing two weeks with a thigh injury, led the Mavericks with 16 points. Junior guard Lonnie McClanahan added 12 points and junior guard Jamel Outler had 11 points.
Senior G Reger Dowell returned to the lineup Saturday at Texas State after missing two weeks with an injured right thigh. Dowell came off the bench to score a game-high 16 points in 23 minutes. Dowell is 11th nationally and first in SBC in scoring at 21.6 ppg. Dowell scored career-high 35 (tied for 20th in UTA history) vs. Howard Payne and had at least 20 in the season's first seven games. He's scored in double figures in all 15 games he's played in.
Dowell is one of five players in the country averaging at least 20 points per game who didn't average double figures in his previous season. The others are: Cameron Bairstow (New Mexico), Aaric Murray (Texas Southern), D.J. Balentine (Evansville) and Tyler Harvey (Eastern Washington).

Junior G Lonnie McClanahan returned to the starting lineup in Dowell's absence and has picked up the scoring slack. McClanahan set career highs in successive games, scoring 25 against ULM and following that up with 27 at Louisiana. He's averaged 21.3 points in his last three games.
Texas State Bobcats
Texas State held UT Arlington to 56 points on Saturday. For the season, the Bobcats have improved by almost nine points a game defensively, allowing 66.3 points per game after giving up 75.2 a game last season. The 66.3 points per game leads the Sun Belt overall.
This season, Texas State has held six opponents to 58 points or fewer. That is the first time since the 2004-05 season when the Bobcats also did it six times.
Gordon Ball led the Bobcats on Saturday vs. UT Arlington, with 10 points (5-of-7 FG) and seven rebounds in 21 minutes. All three marks set or tied his season-highs.
In Sun Belt play, the Bobcats defense has stiffened, allowing 63 points or fewer in three of their five games. Texas State is allowing just 62.0 points per game in conference play, best in the league by a wide margin.
Despite struggling in non conference play from the free throw line, Texas State has picked it up in league play. The Bobcats are 54-of-71 (.761) from the line in league play, good for second in the SBC.
Troy Trojans
Troy suffered a pair of losses at home last week, falling to UL Monroe on Thursday and UL Lafayette on Saturday.
The Trojans got out to a quick start on Thursday, but didn't have an answer for the hot-shooting Warhawks. ULM went a scorching 9-of-14 from beyond the arc in the game, including 5-of-6 in the first half. Troy kept the game close in the second half, but eventually fell 75-64 after late free throws.
Jeff Mullahey and Hunter Williams led the way for Troy with 16 points each. Antoine Myers also scored in double-figures, finishing with 13 points, while Kevin Thomas grabbed 11 rebounds. Troy won the rebounding battle 28-25.
A late cold stretch proved to be too much for the Trojans to overcome in their second game of the weekend, against UL-L. The Ragin' Cajuns got up by double-figures early in the second half, but Troy cut the lead down to one points with seven minutes to go. From there, the Trojans went cold, failing to make a field goal the rest of the way. Shawn Long and Elfrid Payton did the rest of the damage for UL-L, going on a 13-0 run of their own.
Thomas was Troy's top performer on the day, finishing with a double-double at 13 points and 13 rebounds. Tevin Calhoun, reigning Sun Belt Player of the Week, finished with a team-high 14 points.
Next up for the Trojans is a two game trip to Texas, where they will take on UT Arlington on Thursday and Texas State on Saturday.
WKU Hilltoppers
The Hilltoppers split a pair of Sun Belt Conference home games last week that both needed extra time, as UALR picked up an 87-83 overtime win over WKU on Thursday before the Hilltoppers responded with an 82-77 double-overtime victory over Arkansas State on Saturday.
It was the first time WKU played back-to-back overtime games since February 20 and February 25, 2010, at Arkansas State and at Florida Atlantic, respectively.
In the win on Saturday against the Red Wolves, George Fant became the 48th member of WKU's 1,000-point club and finished with a career-high 27 points and 14 rebounds.
WKU outrebounded the Red Wolves in the game 51-37, and the Hilltoppers are now plus-50 in rebounding over the last eight contests.
WKU continues Sun Belt Conference play on Thursday at ULM and Saturday at Louisiana-Lafayette. Saturday's contest will be televised nationally on ESPN2.
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