GAME NOTES: The Southern Miss Golden Eagles begin a difficult two-game road trip, starting at Bartow Arena when they will collide with the UAB Blazers for Conference USA action.
The Golden Eagles coasted to an 81-64 decision over Charlotte on Sunday to notch their seventh consecutive victory and improve to a 21-3 overall record. Coach Donnie Tyndall's team has outscored its opposition by an average of 15.9 ppg over the span of its current winning streak. Southern Miss owns an 8-1 C- USA ledger, which has it tied with Texas-El Paso in first place. Although Southern Miss has been invincible in Hattiesburg, all three of the team's losses have occurred on the road.
Jerod Haase's Blazers lost for the third time in a row on Saturday as they fell, 82-71, to Florida Atlantic in Boca Raton. The slump has dropped UAB to a 14-9 overall standing which includes a 3-6 league record. On the season, the Blazers are averaging 75.1 ppg to rank fourth among C-USA schools. UAB has been unable to match its early season performance as it has been held to 75 points or less in its last seven outings.
The Blazers are 24-17 versus the Golden Eagles in their rivalry's history. During his rookie season as a head coach, Haase lost to USM three times including a 15-point setback in the C-USA Tournament quarterfinals.
Although USM's tallest starter is the 6-foot-7, 225-pound Daveon Boardingham, the team still managed to outrebound Charlotte, 37-25. The Golden Eagles attempted 36 shots at the charity stripe while the 49ers finished with only 12 free-throw attempts. Senior guard Jerrold Brooks led the way with 19 points. Senior forward Michael Craig reached double figures for the 14th straight game as he scored 14 points which he accompanied with eight rebounds. Aaron Brown chipped in 13 points, while Jeremiah Eason and Boardingham netted nine apiece. The collective effort was nothing out of the ordinary for the Golden Eagles, who have five players contributing nine ppg or more. Senior point guard Neil Watson is spearheading the charge with 11.9 ppg and four apg. Watson's status for Thursday is questionable due to an ankle injury, which means junior guard Deonte Houston may be asked to operate the offense.
In its loss at FAU Arena, UAB took a six-point lead into the intermission before it was limited to 35.1 percent efficiency from the floor over the final 20 minutes. Haase's team has relied on a pair of junior college transfers in Chad Frazier and C.J. Washington throughout the campaign, but neither had a strong showing versus FAU. Frazier tallied 18 points on just 5-of-20 shooting from the floor while Washington went 2-of-8 en route to four points. Rod Rucker scored a team-high 19 points, while Fahro Alihodzic and Robert Williams provided 13 points each. Frazier is the third-leading scorer in the C-USA at 18.1 ppg from the guard slot, while Washington and Rucker combine to account for 14.6 rpg. The Blazers are converting just under 30 percent of their 3- point field goal attempts this season.
UAB will struggle against the Golden Eagles' lightning quick defense if it is unable to stretch the floor with outside shooting. Although the visitors do not have nearly as much size as the Blazers, the hosts will have trouble keeping USM's feisty guards out of the lane.
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