Louisiana (19-11) at Arkansas State (18-11)
GAME NOTES: The third seed in the upcoming Sun Belt Conference Tournament is up for grabs when the Arkansas State Red Wolves and Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns tip off in the regular-season finale for both teams at the Convocation Center.
Both schools sit at 10-7 in the Sun Belt standings, two games behind second seed Western Kentucky (12-5) and one game ahead of Arkansas-Little Rock and UT-Arlington, the two teams that are tied for fifth at 9-8.
So, it's simple for the Red Wolves and Ragin' Cajuns - win tonight and you're assured the third seed. However, the loser could end up with a much lower seed than No. 4 depending on the results of the Arkansas-Little Rock and UT- Arlington games.
The Red Wolves come into this game fresh off a 64-58 win over ULM on Thursday night. Melvin Johnson III scored 17 points as Arkansas State ended a two-game slide. Ed Townsel had 13 points, while Kendrick Washington added 12 points and nine rebounds for the Red Wolves, who improved to 18-11 overall this season.
Arkansas State shot 46.2 percent from the field in the opening half and ran out to a 33-20 lead by halftime. The Red Wolves connected on only 29.6 percent of their field goal attempts in the second period but still held on to win. After ULM tied it up at 47 with 3:59 remaining, the Red Wolves went on a 7-0 run to secure the win and go to 11-3 at home this season.
Kirk Van Slyke leads the Red Wolves with 15.3 ppg. Johnson adds 14.8 and Washington tallies 10.1 ppg and a team-best 6.1 rpg for Arkansas State, which 75.7 ppg on 45 percent shooting as a team.
The Ragin' Cajuns are coming off a 75-72 setback to Western Kentucky on Thursday night. Elfrid Payton registered a double-double with 31 points and 13 rebounds for Louisiana, which has dropped two of three to fall to 19-11 on the season. Xavian Rimmer finished with 14 points and Shawn Long cleared 10 boards for the Ragin' Cajuns.
Payton and Long are not only the leading scorers for the Ragin' Cajuns, who average over 81 ppg, but they are also the second and third leading scorers in the Sun Belt. Payton averages 19.4 ppg, while Long adds 19.0 ppg. Only UT- Arlington's Reger Dowell's 20.5 ppg is better.
These two teams battled back on Feb. 15 with Louisiana coming away with an 85-67 route. Long notched a double-double of 16 points and 11 rebounds as the Ragin' Cajuns turned a tied game at halftime into a run-away victory at the Cajundome. Payton knocked in a game-high 22 points and had seven assists for the Ragin' Cajuns, who have won three of four in this series. Johnson and Washington each chipped in 19 points for the Red Wolves in the road loss.
Arkansas State has won four straight against the Ragin' Cajuns in Jonesboro and is a much better home team (11-3) than Louisiana is a road team (5-9). Although the Ragin' Cajuns are a more potent offense, expect the Red Wolves to squeak this one out.
GAME NOTES: The third seed in the upcoming Sun Belt Conference Tournament is
up for grabs when the Arkansas State Red Wolves and Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns
tip off in the regular-season finale for both teams at the Convocation Center.Fact Stats
FACTS & STATS: Site: Convocation Center (10,563) -- Jonesboro, Arkansas.
Television: None. Home Record: Louisiana 13-2, Arkansas State 11-3. Away
Record: Louisiana 5-9, Arkansas State 7-8. Neutral Record: Louisiana 1-0,
Arkansas State 0-0. Conference Record: Louisiana 10-7, Arkansas State 10-7.
Series Record: Louisiana leads, 43-25.Game Date and Time
Saturday, March 8, 8:05 p.m. (ET)Predicted Outcome
Arkansas State 77, Louisiana 74