MOBILE, Ala. – With three straight wins under its belt, the University of South Alabama men’s basketball team will try for four in a row Thursday when the Jaguars welcome Louisiana at Lafayette to the Mitchell Center.
Tip-off is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. The game can be seen online by subscribers of Jaguars All-Access, heard on 105.5 FM WNSP and WNSP.com, and followed via live stats on USAJaguars.com or Twitter @SouthAlaMBK.
The Jaguars are enjoying their second three-game win streak of the last month and have won six of their last seven games. USA brings a 14-9 overall record and an 11-4 mark in Sun Belt Conference play; the 11 wins are second-most in the league and the most by the program since the 2007-08 campaign.
“We’re playing well,” interim USA head coach Jeff Price said. “We’re making them really close, but we’re playing well. We’ve shown that we can be resilient and come from behind, we can hold leads—we’ve done a few different things to get there—but we’ve won six of our last seven and are learning how to win close games. We understand conference play and we’re going to have to show up every game.”
The South Alabama defense, ranked second in the SBC in field goal percentage and 3-point percentage in conference games, will be tested by Louisiana at Lafayette (9-16, 5-9), who leads the league in scoring (71.3 ppg) and 3-pointers (7.1 pg). In their last two victories the Ragin’ Cajuns are averaging 97.5 points.
“Coach (Bob) Marlin really wants them to up-tempo the game,” Price said. “Over the last four games they’re averaging almost 81 points per game and they’ve put up 105 and 90 in two of the last three. They’re a young team that’s really going to push the ball, shoot a lot of 3s—I think they lead our league in 3-point field goals and in scoring—so we really have to get back in our transition defense and find shooters. They do a really nice job of pushing the ball.”
ULL has three players in the Sun Belt’s top seven in scoring. Shawn Long is third (15.8), Elfrid Payton is sixth (15.2) and Bryant Mbamalu is seventh (14.8). Long leads the league in double-doubles with 15 and Payton had 26 points against the Jags earlier this season in Lafayette.
“It’s hard to (defend them) but we’ve got to do a better job on Payton,” Price said. “He totally thrashed us over there off of ball-screens and getting to the basket. He’s got to be a focus—he had 26 points over there. Mbamalu is their leading scorer in conference games and Shawn Long is one of the best players in the league that can really shoot it and is at the top of the league in rebounding. It’s hard to focus on one guy; I just know we have to do a good job on the 3-point line. They’re really explosive and can go on runs if you don’t guard the 3-point line.”
On Jan. 10 the two teams engaged in a double-overtime thriller, with USA finally emerging victorious 91-89. Junior Augustine Rubit (Houston, Texas) had 26 points, juniors Dre Conner (Lauderhill, Fla.) and Antoine Allen (Baltimore, Md.) had 19 each, and sophomore Mychal Ammons (Vicksburg, Miss.) came off the bench to get a double-double.
Rubit led the team in scoring Saturday for the ninth straight time with 18 points, but was held to five rebounds, his lowest total since the third game of the season. He still leads the league with 10.6 boards per game—0.1 ahead of Long—a number that ranks ninth nationally.