Tulane (16-13) at FIU (13-16)

03/02/2014 7:45 AM

03/02/2014 7:52 AM

GAME NOTES: The first-ever meeting between a couple of Conference USA squads takes place this afternoon, as the FIU Panthers play host to the Tulane Green Wave.

Tulane, which will close out the regular season against Southern Miss on Thursday night at home, finished out the month of February with consecutive wins, the most recent being a 72-64 triumph over Florida Atlantic on Feb. 26 at home.

Meanwhile, the Panthers haven't played nearly as well the last several weeks, dealing with a four-game slide as the calendar changed to March. Thursday night saw the squad settle for a 78-66 loss at Southern Miss, the fifth setback in the last six outings for the program.

The Green Wave shot only 35.6 percent from the field against FAU, hitting 4- of-13 behind the 3-point line, but the defense for the hosts forced the Owls into 17 turnovers in the eight-point final. More positive stats for Tulane had the team outscoring FAU at the free-throw line (26-12) and also beating the visitors on the glass, 44-30. Jonathan Stark led the offense with 21 points, followed by Louis Dabney and Jay Hook with 18 and 17 points, respectively, while Tre Drye came up a point shy of a double-double as he pulled down 14 rebounds.

In conference games, the Green Wave are producing a mediocre 62.4 ppg, which is far below the 67.6 ppg being posted by the competition. Dabney takes the lead in scoring with 14.4 ppg, although he has made good on just 28.3 percent of his 3-point attempts. while Hook and Stark check in with 13.0 and 11.9 ppg, respectively.

FIU scored a total of just 23 points through the first 20 minutes of action against Southern Miss a few nights back and that proved to be too little effort to keep the Panthers in the mix as they bowed by 12 points on the road. Marco Porcher Jimenez tallied a career-high 17 points off the bench as he knocked down 5-of-8 behind the 3-point line, followed by Cody Mann and Tymell Murphy with 13 points apiece, the latter added 11 rebounds, seven assists, four steals and three blocks in order to offset six turnovers before fouling out.

The Panthers have seen a drop-off in their offense between their scoring on the season overall (68.3 ppg) to what they are getting done against the rest of Conference USA (65.1 ppg) and that's been a problem. Murphy leads the offensive attack with 17.4 ppg and is also tops with 7.5 rpg, but still those numbers are not good enough to erase the fact that he is shooting just 22.6 percent behind the 3-point line, dragging the entire team down to 28.5 percent.

Judging by how poorly the Panthers came out in their last game, getting up for the Tulane meeting might not be that easy, although FIU does have the edge in being at home.

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