Sun Belt Hoops Insider for Week of Jan. 23

Sun Belt Hoops Insider for Week of Jan. 23

Georgia State, which played in the CAA last season but was a founding SBC member, remains the only undefeated team in conference play. The league's early surprise team, UALR, sits behind the Panthers in the standings followed by the trio of Western Kentucky, Louisiana and ULM.

Let's take a closer look inside the league in this week's SBC Hoops Insider:

AT THE TOP

Georgia State (12-6, 5-0 SBC):
The Panthers and coach Ron Hunter extended their winning streak to nine games, the second-best in program history, after beating Arkansas State and UALR last week. They entered the week as the nation's only team with a two-game lead in the loss column in its respective conference standings.

RISING

UALR (9-9, 4-2 SBC):
The second-place Trojans lost at Georgia State on Saturday but beat Western Kentucky in overtime two days earlier and have won five of their last seven games. Staying near the top of the league will be a challenge as UALR is on the road for three straight games after playing Texas State on Thursday.

FALLING

Troy (7-11, 2-4 SBC):
Last week the Trojans dropped home games to ULM and Louisiana after beating Arkansas State and UALR on the road a week earlier. Troy is 3-8 in its last 11 games, 2-8 away from home this season and travels to UT Arlington and Texas State this week in need of a turnaround.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK

Georgia State G R.J. Hunter
Hunter averaged 24 points and three steals in two games while shooting 54.8 percent from the floor and 47.4 percent behind the 3-point line. The sophomore made the winning shot with 11.1 seconds left and 23 points in a win over Arkansas State. He added 25 points and six 3s in Saturday's win over UALR.

BY THE NUMBERS

5: Division I players this season to average 20 points after not averaging double figures last year. UT Arlington guard Reger Dowell (21.6 ppg) is in that group with New Mexico's Cameron Bairstow, Texas Southern's Aaric Murray, Evansville's D.J. Balentine and Eastern Washington's Tyler Harvey.

2005: The last time a UALR player had a 30-point game until Will Neighbour scored a career-high 32 on 11-of-14 shooting Thursday against Western Kentucky.

27: Points for Western Kentucky forward George Fant, who also had 14 rebounds, in Saturday's win over Arkansas State. That was a career-high point total and tied his personal best for rebounds. He had 28 total points in his previous four games.

12-6: Record for Louisiana this season after 18 games, including a 3-2 SBC mark. Last season the Ragin' Cajuns were 6-12 overall and 2-5 in league play at this point.

2003: The last time ULM had consecutive road wins before winning at Troy and South Alabama last week. The Warhawks are above .500 in SBC play after five games for the first time since 2007.

30: Consecutive free throws made by Georgia State guard R.J. Hunter after he went 5-for-5 last week. That shatters the previous school record of 23 by Nate Williams in 2003-04.

GAME TO WATCH

Georgia State at Louisiana (Thursday, Jan. 23, 7:15 p.m. central)

Look for lots of points as the SBC's top two scoring teams meet in Lafayette. The Cajuns score nearly 84 points per game behind forward Shawn Long (20.8 ppg, 10.6 rpg) and guard Elfrid Payton (19.7 ppg, 6.2 apg, 5.6 rpg, 2.4 spg), but this squad has struggled at times on the defensive end. Led by guard R.J. Hunter (19.1 ppg, 1.8 spg), GSU averages 79 points and shoots well from every level. The biggest issue for the Panthers is on the glass as they're last in the SBC in rebounding margin.

PARROTT'S SBC POWER RANKINGS

1. Georgia State (13-6, 6-0 SBC)/Previous ranking: 1

Last week: Beat Arkansas State 73-72; Beat UALR 99-73.

This Week: Thursday at Louisiana; Saturday at ULM.
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Skinny: The Panthers hope to extend their nine-game winning streak this week on the road in Louisiana. GSU is only 5-6 away from home this season but has won at South Alabama and Western Kentucky as well as UTSA and East Carolina.

2. UALR (9-9, 4-2 SBC)/Previous ranking: 6

Last week: Beat Western Kentucky 87-83 in OT; Lost to Georgia State 99-73.

This Week: Thursday vs. Texas State; Saturday at Arkansas State.

Skinny: Even after splitting two games last week the Trojans jump in the rankings by beating Western Kentucky. Senior forward Will Neighbour (17.8 ppg, 7.2 rpg) is having a career year, and UALR needs him with three of its next four on the road.

3. Western Kentucky (12-7, 4-2 SBC)/Previous ranking: 2

Last week: Lost to UALR 87-83 in OT; Beat Arkansas State 82-77 in 2OTs.

This Week: Thursday at ULM; Saturday at Louisiana.

Skinny: The Hilltoppers have lost two of three, but the losses were to the top teams in the power rankings, plus guard T.J. Price was suspended in the UALR loss. They're on the road this week but opened SBC play with wins at South Alabama and Troy.

4. Arkansas State (10-7, 3-3 SBC)/Previous ranking: 4

Last week: Lost to Georgia State 73-72; Lost to Western Kentucky 82-77 in 2OTs.

This Week: Saturday vs. UALR.

Skinny: The Red Wolves have dropped three of four but last week lost by one at SBC leader Georgia State and fell in double overtime at Western Kentucky. This week will show how good the Wolves are with a home game against second-place UALR.

5. ULM (6-7, 3-2 SBC)/Previous ranking: 8

Last week: Beat Troy 75-64; Beat South Alabama 64-58.

This Week: Thursday vs. Western Kentucky; Saturday vs. Georgia State.

Skinny: The Warhawks have two tests at home against Western Kentucky and Georgia State. ULM lost its last home game to Texas State but beat Louisiana before that. Forward Tylor Ongwae is the SBC's No. 2 scorer in league play (21 ppg).

6. Louisiana (12-7, 3-3 SBC)/Previous ranking: 3

Last week: Lost to South Alabama 81-73; Beat Troy 72-59.

This Week: Thursday vs. Georgia State; Saturday vs. Western Kentucky.

Skinny: After splitting last week on the road, which included a loss at South Alabama, the Ragin' Cajuns look to stay undefeated at home, where they've won eight straight. Their game Saturday against Western Kentucky will air on ESPN2.

7. Troy (7-11, 2-4 SBC)/Previous ranking: 5

Last week: Lost to ULM 75-64; Lost to Louisiana 72-59.

This Week: Thursday at UT Arlington; Saturday at Texas State.

Skinny: The Trojans fell two spots in the rankings after losing at home to ULM and Louisiana. Troy allowed both teams to shoot over 50 percent from the floor in those losses and now has to slow down an up-tempo UT Arlington squad.

8. UT Arlington (7-10, 2-3 SBC)/Previous ranking: 7

Last week: Beat Texas State 56-48.

This Week: Thursday vs. Troy; Saturday vs. South Alabama.

Skinny: The Mavs beat Texas State as guard Reger Dowell had 16 points after missing two games (thigh). The return of Dowell (21.6 ppg, 3.7 3s per game) is big for UT Arlington, which beat ULM and lost to Louisiana when he was out.

9. South Alabama (7-12, 1-5 SBC)/Previous ranking: 9

Last week: Beat Louisiana 81-73; Lost to ULM 64-58.

This Week: Saturday at UT Arlington.

Skinny: Reigning SBC Player of the Year Augustine Rubit had 21 points, nine rebounds and five blocks in the Louisiana win before the Jags shot only 32.2 percent in the ULM loss. The Jags are winless away from home this season.

10. Texas State (5-13, 1-4 SBC)/Previous ranking: 10

Last week: Lost to UT Arlington 56-48.

This Week: Thursday at UALR; Saturday vs. Troy.

Skinny: The Bobcats are still last with one win in their last six games. They've held six opponents to 58 points or fewer, something TSU had not done since 2005. In SBC play they lead the league in scoring D (62 ppg) but are last in scoring O (59 ppg).

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