Conference USA basketball insider
BY BILL HAISTEN World Sports Writer
Wednesday, January 23, 2013
1/23/13 at 4:38 AM
Southern Miss: The first-place Golden Eagles visit Tulsa on Saturday. Southern Miss ranks No. 1 in Conference USA in overall field goal percentage defense (.389) and 3-point percentage defense (.294). Houston leads C-USA in scoring with a 77.8-point average. In a 73-54 loss at Southern Miss, the Cougars shot 33 percent overall and 4-of-25 on 3-pointers.
Memphis: With a Tuesday night home victory over Tulane, the Tigers surged to a 4-0 league start and share the conference lead with Southern Miss. Overwhelming opponents with athleticism, Memphis entered the Tulane game with the C-USA lead in rebounding margin (6.2 per game) and blocked shots (5.8). In the paint, forward Tarik Black has connected on 64.1 percent of his shots (the league's best shooting percentage). From 3-point range, Joe Jackson and Antonio Barton are stars.
UAB: In October, first-year Blazers coach Jerod Haase expressed optimism. "I think we really will have a chance to win - and win big," he said. "I think we can be one of those teams that aims for the top of the conference and can really do some big things." Instead, UAB is stuck in an unfortunate rut - a losing streak of four games and an 0-3 start in league play. UAB hasn't won since Jan. 2.
In a 45-42 victory over UTEP last week, Tulsa limited the Miners to 35 percent shooting from the field. "(The Hurricane) are guarding as hard as any team we've played against all year," UTEP coach Tim Floyd said. "The shooting percentage is a reflection of their intensity (and) their defense. ... They are undersized, but they proved that it has no bearing on the ability to go back and defensive rebound."
News and notes
Tigers on a roll: On Nov. 22 in the Bahamas, Memphis was beaten by Virginia Commonwealth. The next day, the Tigers lost to Minnesota.
Since then, Memphis is 13-1 (including a 4-0 start in Conference USA play). The only setback was an 87-78 home loss to Louisville - currently No. 5 in the country, but ranked No. 1 last week. In that game, Memphis had a 16-point, first-half lead.
In advance of Saturday's home contest against Marshall, the Tigers are 15-3 overall.
Since the loss to Minnesota, Memphis has limited opponents to 38.6 percent shooting from the field. The Tigers are eighth nationally in steals (10.1 per game) and 12th in blocks (5.82 per game).
"You're going to have ruts where you're just in a total skid and you can't score and you're just out of whack offensively. When that happens, you've got to win games through the defensive end, and that's what we've done," Tiger coach Josh Pastner told the Memphis Commercial-Appeal. "In our run here that we've had - especially since the Bahamas - we've really been better defensively, and that's been the big thing."
Weekly honors: For having totaled 19 points and 11 rebounds during Tulane's 75-72 victory over Tulsa, Green Wave junior forward Josh Davis was named the Conference USA player of the week. He was two assists shy of recording what would have been the first triple-double in Tulane program history. Instead, Davis recorded his 10th double-double of the season.
The freshman of the week - for the third time this season - is Houston's Danuel House. In losses to East Carolina and Central Florida, he averaged 18.5 points.
1. Memphis: Josh Pastner-coached Tiger teams are 26-3 in Conference USA games played at the FedEx Forum.
2. Southern Miss: With a 15-point victory over UAB, the Golden Eagles extended their overall home win streak to 22 games.
3. UTEP: Bouncing back from loss at Tulsa, the Miners defeated SMU 63-54 as Jacques Streeter scored 18 points (17 in the first half).
4. Central Florida: In an overtime triumph at Houston, Keith Clanton played a career-high 43 minutes, totaling 19 points and eight rebounds.
5. East Carolina: During Jan. 16 win over Houston, the Pirates committed only five turnovers (lowest single-game total in 10 years).
6. Marshall: How's this for a road swing? Thundering Herd visits Southern Miss (4-0 C-USA) on Wednesday and Memphis (3-0) on Saturday.
7. Tulsa: Through 19 games, the Golden Hurricane has been good on only 31.3 percent of its 3-point attempts - down from 38.4 percent last season.
8. Tulane: In a three-point victory over Tulsa, the Green Wave connected on 10 3-point shots and was 23-of-29 from the foul line.
9. Houston: A Final Four program during the '80s, Houston's average home attendance through 11 dates is a meager 3,787.
10. SMU: The talented Mustangs aren't bad statistically, but Larry Brown's team has stumbled to a 1-4 start in conference play.
11. UAB: Brutally tough schedule so far - a 16-point loss at Central Florida, a 16-point loss to Memphis and a 15-point loss to Southern Miss.
12. Rice: The Owls ended their six-game losing streak, but did it with a nonconference conquest of the University of New Orleans.
GAME OF THE WEEK
Marshall at Southern Miss, 6 p.m., Wednesday
Marshall is one of those "any given day" teams that can be decidedly average in one game and then play phenomenally well in the next game. For Exhibit A, see the Thundering Herd's brilliant first-half performance against Tulsa on Jan. 9. Southern Miss has a 22-game home win streak and the highest RPI standing in Conference USA. Are the Golden Eagles a legitimate threat to Memphis?