From the Hardwood - USA

ULM (3-9, 2-4 SBC) faces South Alabama (8-8, 5-3 SBC) for the second time in two
weeks on Thursday at 7:05 p.m. inside the Mitchell Center. ULM, coming off a
66-57 loss at home to Middle Tennessee on Saturday, is just one win shy of
reaching 900 in program history. South Alabama lost 66-56 at North Texas on
ULM dropped its second straight game with a 66-57 loss against Middle Tennessee
on Saturday inside Fant-Ewing Coliseum. The loss dropped the Warhawks to 1-3 at
home during conference play.
The Warhawks trailed by 15 at halftime before rallying within two midway through
the second half. ULM shot 56.5 percent in the second half, compared to just 25.9
percent in the first half.
Junior guard Amos Olatayo led the Warhawks with a career-high 24
points on 9-of-15 shooting. Olatayo heated up in the second half with 17 points;
including six during a 12-2 ULM run that cut the Middle Tennessee lead to 48-46
with 11:14 remaining.
Junior forward Jayon James and junior guard R.J.
McCray each finished with 10 points for the Warhawks. James added a
team-high five assists.
ULM forced 18 Middle Tennessee turnovers and outscored the Blue Raiders 21-6 off
turnovers. However, the Blue Raiders held a 40-22 rebounding advantage and
outscored the Warhawks 12-3 in second-chance points.
ULM has now lost six straight in the series to Middle Tennessee after winning
six of the first eight meetings.
ULM is averaging 66.5 points and shooting 47.1 percent (152-of-323) from the
field, 39.1 percent (43-of-110) and 61.2 percent (52-of-85) from the free-throw
line over its past six games (ULM is 2-4). In comparison, ULM averaged just 52.9
points and shot 36.7 percent (133-of-362) from the field, 31 percent (36-of-116)
and 57.6 percent (68-of-118) from the free-throw line in its first seven games
(ULM went 1-6).
ULM ranks second in the Sun Belt in assists per game (13.0), fifth in field-goal
percentage (.442) and fifth in 3-point percentage (.359) in its seven conference
games this season.
ULM Head Coach Keith Richard inserted junior guard Amos Olatayo in
the starting lineup for the first time in seven games against Middle Tennessee
and it paid off as Olatayo registered a career-high 24 points in 36 minutes.
Saturday's lineup of McCray, Hansberry, Olatayo, James and Brown was the seventh
different lineup for the Warhawks this season.
Olatayo leads the Warhawks and ranks ninth in the Sun Belt in scoring with 14.6
points per game this season. Olatayo has scored at least 17 points in each of
his last four games and is averaging a team-high 19.0 points during that stretch
while shooting 58 percent (29-of-50) from the field, 35.3 percent (6-of-17) from
3-point range and 63.2 percent (12-of-19) from the free-throw line.
Junior Jayon James has continued to fill up the stat sheet this season as
he averages 10.4 points per game and ranks eighth in the Sun Belt in rebounds
per game (6.9), third in assists per game (4.7) and 10th in steals per game
(1.5). James has upped his scoring average to 12.3 points in seven Sun Belt
games. James has also led the team in assists in 11 of 13 games this season.
Sophomore Trent Mackey ranks second on the team in scoring with
10.7 points per game and is the Warhawks' top 3-point shooter with 33 makes from
deep this season. Mackey had a string of nine straight games with at least two
3-point makes snapped Saturday against Middle Tennessee (went 0-1). Mackey still
ranks sixth in the Sun Belt in 3-point percentage (.398) and fifth in 3-point
makes per game (2.5).
Junior R.J. McCray scored in double figures for the sixth time this
season with 10 points Saturday against Middle Tennessee. McCray entered the
season with just three double-figure scoring games in his career -- all during
his freshman season. McCray, who has started in all but one game this season,
ranks fourth on the team in scoring (8.5 ppg) and second on the team in assists
(2.5 apg).
ULM has had balanced scoring so far this season with five players averaging at
least 7.8 points per game. Olatayo leads the team with 14.6 points per game,
followed by Mackey (10.7), James (10.4), junior R.J. McCray (8.5) and
junior Hansberry (7.8). Seven different ULM players have scored in double
figures at least once this season and three different players have registered at
least 20 points.
The Warhawks do not have a regular starter back from last season and returned
just 28 percent of their scoring and 24 percent of their rebounding from a
season ago.
South Alabama is currently in second place in the Sun Belt's East Division with
a 5-3 conference record. The Jaguars dropped a 66-56 decision at North Texas in
their last outing. The Jaguars have conference wins over Florida Atlantic
(77-66), FIU (79-68), UALR (77-62), ULM (77-72) and UL-Lafayette (91-89 OT).
South Alabama ranks second in the Sun Belt in scoring average with 70.6 points
per game. The Jaguars are shooting 41.1 percent (377-of-918) from the field,
34.4 percent (105-of-305) from 3-point range and 69.8 percent (271-of-388) from
the free-throw line this season.
Junior Augustine Rubit ranks second in the Sun Belt in scoring
(19.3 ppg) and leads the conference in rebounding (10.9 rpg). Rubit is shooting
49.8 percent (106-of-213) from the field and 78.7 percent (96-of-122) from the
free-throw line. Sophomore Mychal Ammons chips in 11.2 points and 7.7
rebounds per game.
• Jeff Price
took over as South Alabama's interim head coach on Dec. 19 following the
retirement of Ronnie Arrow. Price has 17 years of collegiate head-coaching
experience, including 10 seasons at Georgia Southern (1999-2008), where he
guided the Eagles to 165 victories and a trip to the 2006 National Invitational
Tournament. Price also coached at Lynn College (1993-99) and West Virginia
Wesleyan (2010-11).
South Alabama has a 9-4 advantage in the all-time series against ULM, including
a 77-72 victory in Monroe two weeks ago. ULM is just 1-4 in games played in
Mobile with its only win coming in its last trip -- a 67-65 victory on Jan. 15,
South Alabama staved off a late ULM comeback attempt to pick up a 77-72 victory
two weeks ago inside Fant-Ewing Coliseum. The Jaguars shot 59.1 percent from the
field and out-rebounded the Warhawks 39-15 for the game, but needed a clutch
basket in the final minute to put away a gutsy performance by ULM.
South Alabama pushed out to a 23-6 advantage in the first 10 minutes and led
36-28 at the break. The Jaguars led 51-35 with 14:04 to play before ULM chipped
away at the lead and had a chance in the final minute.
Warhawks used a 10-2 run to cut the South Alabama lead to 73-69 with 1:12
remaining before South Alabama's Dre Conner rebounded his own missed
3-pointer and scored on the putback to give the Jaguars a comfortable lead in
the final minute.
• Amos Olatayo
came off the bench to score a team-high 18 points, including a pair of
high-flying dunks for the Warhawks. Millaun Brown chipped in a
career-best 13 points and R.J. McCray added 10 points and five assists.
Jayon James finished with seven points, six assists and a career-high
five steals but had his double-digit rebounding streak snapped at five.
• Augustine Rubit
finished with 32 points and 13 rebounds to lead the way for South Alabama. Rubit
went 11-of-12 from the field and 10-of-12 from the free-throw line.
ULM forced South Alabama into 25 turnovers and scored a season-best 33 points
off those turnovers. The Warhawks shot 51.5 percent from the field in the second
half and scored a season-high 44 points in the second half.
The Warhawks finish off the week with a trip to Jonesboro, Ark., to take on Arkansas
State on Saturday at 7:05 p.m.