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Men's Hoops Preview: FAU @ South Alabama

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FAU (10-10, 6-3) @ USA (12-9, 4-5)

When: Thursday, Jan. 28th - 8:00PM EST

Where: Mobile, AL - Mitchell Center

TV: None

Live Video: USA Pay Per View

ESPN 760 Internet Broadcast: Here

Live Stats: Here

USA Team Site: Here

Probable Starters:

FAU

G Ray Taylor 14.9 ppg
G Alex Tucker 5.3 ppg
G Greg Gantt 15.1 ppg
G Sanchez Hughley 9.7 ppg
F Brett Royster 9.6 ppg

USA

G Allyn Cooks 7.8 ppg
G Bryan Sherrer 11.2 ppg
G Tim Williams 15.0 ppg
F Martino Brock 12.1 ppg
F Javier Carter 3.4 ppg

The Series

The Jaguars are 6-1 against the Owls all-time. Florida Atlantic faltered away a 15 point second half lead when the teams last met on January 2nd in a 96-93 overtime defeat. Brett Royster lead the Owls with 20 points while Ray Taylor added 18 and had a career high 13 assists.

FAU at a Glance

Florida Atlantic downed Western Division leader Arkansas State last Saturday 78-63 before a spirited crowd at FAU Arena.

However, the loss to USA earlier on the year is one that still resonates within both the players minds and that of the coaching staff. Mike Jarvis has jokingly called the contest and Owl's win, but now stresses the importance of the team's staying focused against the Jaguars on Thursday.

"We can't get a loss back. They've struggled a little bit since we've played them. But (it's a) tough week anytime you have to travel, play, come home, and play again. We're gonna have to be really mentally tough this week", said Jarvis.

The Owls are 5-1 since going to the smaller four-guard starting line-up. USA was the last team to face FAU prior to the switch in personnel.

"It will be interesting to see how they adjust to us now. And, who knows, we might have to re-adjust. It's a chess game", Jarvis said. "The game of basketball, just like the game of life, is a game of adjustments".

The Owls currently lead the Sun Belt in offensive boards (13.2),  turnover margin (+2.3), and blocks (4.9).

USA at a Glance

Just 1 of 5 in their last six outings, the Jaguars suffered a disappointing loss to Denver last Saturday as the Pioneers sank a whopping 14 treys en route to a 71-48 win in Denver. This happened despite the fact that USA came into the contest ranked 32nd in the nation in three point defense while holding opponents to just 29.8% from long range.

South Alabama also had just 20 points at halftime; which was a season low.

"We didn’t guard the 3-point line against Denver and we’re going to have to guard it against FAU," said Jaguars Head Coach Ronnie Arrow.

"They’re playing very well right now. This is not the same team that we played at their place. We can’t lay back and think we’re going to come from 14 points down again."

Injury and ineligibility have undoubtedly played a part in USA's tailspin lately. Charles Tabet, who started at center the last contest versus FAU, saw just two minutes against Denver.  He is likely to be limited again on Thursday. The status of reserve guard LaShun Watson, 7.3 ppg, is unknown, but he is not listed on the game note roster issued by USA.

The Jaguars leading rebounder is ironically 6'-2" guard Tim Williams with 7.3 grabs per game.

USA is best in the league in field goal defense while allowing just 40.6% per contest from the field.

Latest Line:

USA -5.5

Owl's Nest Prediction

Home court is worth 3-4, where 4 is discretionary.  Not giving the extra point to a hobbled line-up. Thus, with a basic stat analysis of both teams head to head, we are looking at -3.5.  Which means the game is basically even on a neutral court.

Enter intangibles.

If it weren't for injuries, USA would be the choice by a slim margin. But, that has to be factored in.

Additionally, the Owls assuredly have a bitter taste in their mouths after the last match-up with the Jaguars.

Even though he's not a point producer, FAU is going to benefit from Tibet's limited status. USA doesn't offer much presence in the front court without him.

South Alabama basically has a two-guard + small forward offensive package to offer on Thursday night. They can play defense, but will likely have a hard time containing the Owls with three consistent scorers in Gantt, Hughley, and Richardson.  Not to mention Royster, who looks as a man on his own island underneath.

Florida Atlantic has also shown solid improvement in perimeter defense over the last few contests.

If they shoot at 45% or better for the game, FAU comes away with another close road win to move to 7-3 in Sun Belt play; setting up an interesting situation in the East as teams quest for a first round bye come tournament time.

FAU -3

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