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2019-2020 High School Bounce

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April 2020
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Sun Belt Conference Men’s Basketball News & Notes

• Sun Belt Conference men’s basketball turns the corner on the stretch run of the regular season with 12 matchups on ESPN+ this week.

• Little Rock (18-7, 12-2 Sun Belt) enters the week with a three-game lead in the conference standings. The Trojans’ 12-2 record equals their 2015-16 team for the best mark in Sun Belt play through 14 games. Little Rock’s 18 wins already surpass its win total from both the 2017-18 (seven wins) and 2018-19 (10 wins) seasons combined.

• Little Rock’s seven-game winning streak is tied for the 12th-longest active streak in NCAA Division I and is its longest since winning 10 in a row to start the 2015-16 season. The Trojans’ seven-game Sun Belt winning streak is tied the program record with both their 1994-95 and 1995-96 teams.

• Only three games in the loss column separate the next eight teams in the Sunday standings with Georgia State (16-9, 9-5) and Georgia Southern (15-10, 9-5) tied for second. The Panthers have been hot from the free throw line lately, hitting 39-of-43 (.907) in their last two games. The Eagles have been lighting it up from the field, going 70-of-118 (.593) during their two-game winning streak.

• Appalachian State (14-11, 8-6) has won four of its last five games to make a move up the standings and sit tied with Texas State (15-10, 8-6). These two teams had a classic battle on Feb. 8 with the Mountaineers rallying from an 18-point deficit to snag a three-point win. The three-point difference was courtesy of Appalachian State junior guard Justin Forrest draining a three-pointer with 18.5 seconds remaining to grab the crucial win at him. Forrest’s clutch basket marked the third time this season that he hit a triple in the final seconds of regulation.

• Texas State senior guard Nijal Pearson, the school’s all-time leading scorer, enters the week 12th among active Division I players with 1,988 career points. Pearson’s point total ranks 10th in Sun Belt history behind 2,067 career points by Appalachian State’s Ronshad Shabazz from 2015-19, 2,063 career points by Troy’s Wesley Person from 2014-18 and 2,020 career points by Charlotte’s Chad Kinch from 1976-80. Pearson is in position to become just the 10th player in Sun Belt history to reach 2,000 career points.

• Arkansas State (15-10, 7-7) continues to lead Division I in free throws made (472) and attempted (668). The Red Wolves are 15-5 when shooting 40 percent or better and 14-4 when scoring 65 or more points this season. Arkansas State is second in Division I behind Winthrop with 28 double-figure scoring games from players off the bench. Senior guard Jerry Johnson Jr. has 12 double-figure scoring games off the bench, tied for fifth-most in the nation, so far this season.

• UTA (10-15, 6-8) has had eight different leading scorers in 25 games. The Mavericks’ leading scorer has come off the bench in 12 games. Five of UTA’s eight Sun Belt losses have been by six points or less. Ten of the Maverick’s 15 losses overall have been by eight points or less, including six to opponents sitting in Quad 1 or 2 of the most recent NCAA NET Ratings.

• The Jan. 18 game between Louisiana and Texas State resulted in an interesting statistic. In that game, both teams were perfect from the charity stripe – Ragin’ Cajuns were 13-of-13 and the Bobcats were 8-of-8. It marked the eighth time since the 2014-15 season that this occurrence happened in a Division I men’s game, according to Sports Reference.

• Little Rock junior forward Ruot Monyyong is the only player in the Sun Belt currently averaging a double-double (12.0 points, league-leading 10.2 rebounds). His 14 doubles-doubles lead the conference and rank tied for sixth in Division I. He has scored in double digits a team-high 19 times with 16 double-digit rebounding performances. Monyyong ranks sixth in the nation in defensive rebounds per game (8.1) and also leads in the conference in blocks per game (2.2).

• Little Rock sophomore guard Markquis Nowell enters the week having made 27-straight free throws, dating back to the Georgia Southern game on Jan. 6. He leads the Sun Belt and ranks 12th in the nation in free throw percentage (76-of-84, .905). Nowell has scored 20 or more points 11 times this season with the Trojans sporting a 9-2 record in those games.

• Georgia Southern redshirt senior guard Ike Smith continues to move up the Sun Belt’s career scoring list. Smith enters the week with 1,840 career points (20th among active Division I players), good for 19th on the conference’s all-time list. Also poised to move into the conference’s top 25 in career points before season end is South Alabama redshirt senior forward Josh Ajayi with 1,666 career points (41st among active Division I players).

• With 106 Sun Belt wins, Louisiana head coach Bob Marlin ranks fourth in Sun Belt history in all-time conference wins. Marlin’s total trails former Middle Tennessee State’s Kermit Davis, Jr., (117), South Alabama’s Ronnie Arrow (112) and UAB’s Gene Bartow (111).

• Little Rock has the Sun Belt’s highest ranking in the RPI (82nd) and Jeff Sagarin Ratings (124th), while Texas State has the conference’s top ranking in the Ken Pomeroy Ratings (100th) and ESPN College Basketball Power Index (105th) and Georgia State holds the league’s top ranking in the NCAA NET Rankings (124th). The Sun Belt is currently ranked 15th among the Division I conferences, according to the Sagarin Ratings.

• Little Rock moved up to 19th in the Feb. 3 edition of the Men’s Mid-Major Top 25 with Georgia State listed among the teams receiving votes.

• The Sun Belt is one of 10 NCAA Division I conferences that received approval from the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Basketball Rules committees to permit the use of electronically transmitted data to the bench for coaching purposes during the 2019-20 season.

• Ten Sun Belt players were named to the midseason watch list for the 2020 Dos Equis 3X3U National Championship, which will be held April 3-5 at Atlantic Station in Atlanta as a part of the festivities surrounding the 2020 NCAA Men’s Final Four.

• Nowell and Coastal Carolina sophomore guard DeVante Jones were among names on the midseason watch list for the 2019-20 Lou Henson Award, presented annually to the nation’s top Division I mid-major player. Smith, Pearson and South Alabama redshirt senior forward Trhae Mitchell were among the initial list of players listed on the preseason watch list.

• The Sun Belt is set to showcase a record 341 games on the ESPN family of networks this season – 327 regular-season home games (172 men and 151 women) and 18 Sun Belt Basketball Championship games (nine men and nine women).

• The Sun Belt pulled in numerous national preseason honors and recognitions, headlined by South Alabama recognized as the conference’s preseason favorite by multiple publications.

• The Jaguars were selected by the conference’s 12 head coaches as the preseason favorite as well to go along with Mitchell selected as the league’s Preseason Player of the Year.

• Sun Belt men’s basketball has three new head coaches roaming the sidelines this season – Appalachian State’s Dustin Kerns, Georgia State’s Rob Lanier and Troy’s Scott Cross.

• Three former Sun Belt standouts are on NBA rosters this season. Former Little Rock star Rayjon Tucker is the latest addition, signing with the Utah Jazz on Dec. 23. Tucker spent the first part of the season with the Wisconsin Herd, the NBA G League affiliate of the Milwaukee Bucks, starting 16 games and averaging 23.8 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.8 assists in 33.8 minutes per game. Tucker joins Louisiana’s Elfrid Payton, who is in his sixth NBA season and first with the New York Knicks, and UTA’s Kevin Hervey, who signed a two-way contract with the Oklahoma City Thunder on Dec. 13.

• The 2020 Sun Belt Men’s Basketball Championship is set to feature a 10-team bracket with first-round games on Saturday, March 7, second-round games on Monday, March 9 and quarterfinal games on Wednesday, March 11 hosted by the higher seeds on campus sites. The four men’s teams that advance from the quarterfinals will then converge on New Orleans and the Smoothie King Center, home of the NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans, for semifinals games on Saturday, March 14 and championship game on Sunday, March 15. The No. 1 and No. 2 seeds receive byes directly to the semifinals. First-round, second-round, quarterfinal and semifinal games are set for live coverage on ESPN+. The championship game is set for Sunday, March 15 at 1 p.m. CT on ESPN2.

Quan Jackson, Georgia Southern (Jr., G, Tallahassee, Fla.)
Georgia Southern junior guard Quan Jackson put up a big week in the Eagles’ sweep of ULM and Louisiana to earn the first Sun Belt Conference Player of the Week honor of his career. Jackson posted a team-high 24 points on 9-of-17 (.529) shooting, scoring 20 of his points in the second half, against the Warhawks. He hit four three-pointers in the second frame, including three in the final 7:16, and added two rebounds and five steals in the win over ULM. Against Louisiana, he poured in 23 points on 9-of 13 (.692) shooting and scored his 1,000th career point on a three-pointer from the wing with 7:15 left in the first half. Jackson added seven rebounds and four steals in the victory over the Ragin’ Cajuns.

2019-20 Weekly Award Winners
November 12: Josh Ajayi, South Alabama
November 19: Markquis Nowell, Little Rock
November 26: Elijah McCadden, Georgia Southern
December 3: Markquis Nowell, Little Rock
December 9: DeVante Jones, Coastal Carolina
December 16: Nijal Pearson, Texas State
December 23: Justin Forrest, Appalachian State
December 30: Ike Smith, Georgia Southern
January 6: Kamani Johnson, Little Rock and Michael Ertel, ULM
January 13: Nijal Pearson, Texas State
January 20: Josh Ajayi, South Alabama
January 27: Jalen Johnson, Louisiana
February 3: Justin Forrest, Appalachian State and Markquis Nowell, Little Rock
February 10: Quan Jackson, Georgia Southern



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