Conference USA basketball insider
BY BILL HAISTEN World Sports Writer
Wednesday, January 30, 2013
1/30/13 at 5:25 AM
Southern Miss: Three days before grinding out a 62-59 victory at Tulsa, the Golden Eagles were phenomenally efficient during a 102-46 annihilation of Marshall. Southern Miss shot 63 percent from the field and recorded its 23rd consecutive home victory (tying the school record set in 1949-51). With a final margin of 56 points, it was the most one-sided league game in Conference USA history.
UCF: At 4-1 in league play, the Knights have a pair of road assignments this week - visiting Tulane and Marshall. At a combined average of 32.3 points per game, UCF's Keith Clanton and Isaiah Sykes are the league's No. 2 scoring duo (trailing Houston's Joseph Young and TaShawn Thomas, who average 32.6).
Rice: Seth Gearhart was 8-of-12 on shots from the field, but the Owls sagged to 0-5 in conference play with a seven-point loss to Tulane. Among 345 NCAA Division I programs that qualify for national statistical rankings, Rice is 345th in average rebound margin (minus-12.8). At 59.9 points per game, the Owls are 319th in scoring.
TU does not have a midweek game. The Golden Hurricane resumes conference play with Saturday's 1 p.m. contest at Memphis. At 5 p.m. Wednesday at the Reynolds Center, TU coach Danny Manning will conduct a 90-minute practice session that is open to the public. After practice, there will be a period during which fans can talk with coaches and players.
News and notes
Unexpected drama: Only three days after losing by 56 points to Southern Miss, Marshall nearly defeated Memphis at the FedEx Forum. On three occasions during the final 2:18, the Thundering Herd trailed by only one point. Memphis escaped with a 73-72 victory.
Marshall played a lot more like the team that beat Tulsa by 18 points than the one that lost 102-46 to Southern Miss.
"We just battled our brains out," Thundering Herd coach Tom Herrion said. "We came in here with every expectation to win, and we're disappointed with the loss, but I'm proud of my kids. They were resilient.
"We played really well, out-rebounded them by six and only had 13 turnovers on the road. I'm very, very proud of my group. In a loss - which we don't accept - I think we showed today about our character coming back."
In advance of Wednesday's Conference USA game at East Carolina, Memphis has a 10-game win streak - its longest in four seasons with Josh Pastner as the coach. Tulsa visits the Tigers on Saturday. Is Memphis vulnerable? In their last two conference home games, the Tigers struggled to beat Tulane and Marshall.
Weekly honors: For having averaged 22.5 points and 7.5 rebounds during victories over Rice and SMU, Central Florida's Isaiah Sykes is the Conference USA player of the week. Sykes shot 52 percent from the field and was 16-of-19 on free throws.
The freshman of the week is Rice guard Max Guercy, who averaged 10.5 points and six assists in losses to Central Florida and Tulane.
1. Southern Miss: The Golden Eagles' average scoring margin of plus-16.5 points per game ranks No. 8 in college basketball.
2. Memphis: The Tigers smother opponents with defense, ranking among national leaders in blocks and steals.
3. UTEP: Since losing at Tulsa, the Miners bounced back with a win over SMU and a buzzer-beater victory at East Carolina.
4. Central Florida: While No. 11 in C-USA in free-throw percentage (.656), the Knights are No. 1 in field-goal percentage (.491).
5. Tulsa: After limiting Southern Miss to 39 percent shooting, TU now is No. 2 in C-USA in defensive field-goal percentage.
6. East Carolina: If not for a last-second, game-winning 3-pointer by UTEP, the Pirates would be 4-2 in conference play.
7. Tulane: The Green Wave squad really isn't bad, but Tulane has by far the league's worst attendance average (1,819).
8. Marshall: During a 56-point defeat at Southern Miss, the Thundering Herd trailed 53-17 at halftime.
9. Houston: Defensive flaws have been glaring during C-USA play. The Cougars are allowing 76 points per game.
10. SMU: A lack of firepower dooms Larry Brown's team as SMU ranks 253rd nationally in scoring.
11. UAB: The Blazers are defined by an unfortunate combination of turnovers (16 per game) and poor defense.
12. Rice: At No. 319 nationally in scoring and No. 293 in field-goal percentage, the Owls remain on course for an 0-16 league run.
GAME OF THE WEEK
Tulsa at Memphis, 1 p.m., Saturday, CBSSN-249
Two seasons ago, the Golden Hurricane prevailed at the FedEx Forum - ending a 12-game losing streak against Memphis and beating the Tigers on their home floor for the first time in 40 years. This season, the Hurricane held SMU to 34 percent shooting, UTEP to 31 percent and Southern Miss to 39 percent. Can TU's defense be similarly effective against Memphis?
Southern Miss' Jonathan Mills tries to pass around TU's Scottie Haralson and Kauri Black on Saturday. JAMES GIBBARD / Tulsa World