Bill Haisten's Conference USA Insider
BY BILL HAISTEN World Sports Writer
Wednesday, February 06, 2013
2/06/13 at 4:58 AM
Memphis: A weekend blowout of Tulsa extended the Tigers' win streak to 12. Memphis hasn't lost since mid-December, when it nearly upended Louisville. As the head-coaching successor to John Calipari, Josh Pastner has now assembled his own recruits into his best Memphis team - one that might be capable of a two-weekend run in the NCAA Tournament.
Southern Miss: The Golden Eagles resemble a junior-college team - undersized but fearless, athletic and tenacious. In advance of a showdown with visiting Memphis, Southern Miss has recorded 23 consecutive home victories. Saturday's contest could be the game of the year in Conference USA. At 7-0 in C-USA, the Golden Eagles are off to their best start ever in conference play.
UAB: From the start of the 2007-08 season through the end of the 2010-11 season, the Blazers had a home record of 54-8. Since the start of the 2011-12 season, however, UAB's home mark is an ordinary 16-10. In 2009-10, the attendance average was 5,970. This season's average has plummeted to 4,032.
In spite of below-average standings in several key statistical categories, Tulsa is 4-4 in league play. In Conference USA games, the Golden Hurricane is ninth in field goal percentage at .411, 10th in scoring at 62.5 points per game, seventh in rebounding margin and seventh in turnover margin. In conference play, Pat Swilling Jr. (11-point average) is TU's only double-figure scorer. TU does not have a rebounder among the league's top 23 individuals.
News and notes
Showdown in Hattiesburg: If Memphis and Southern Miss take care of business in midweek games, their Saturday showdown in Hattiesburg, Miss., could be the game of the year in Conference USA.
Entering Wednesday's contest at SMU, Memphis has a 12-game overall win streak and is unbeaten in four road games this season. Southern Miss visits a quality opponent - Central Florida - on Wednesday.
Memphis and Southern Miss share the C-USA lead, each with a 7-0 mark in league play. Saturday's 3 p.m. clash will be televised by the CBS Sports Network.
In Pastner's fourth season as the Memphis head man, the Tigers have the kind of athleticism and depth that were the defining characteristics of Calipari-coached Memphis squads.
Southern Miss leads C-USA in field goal percentage, scoring defense, 3-point percentage, rebounding margin and steals.
During the first half of the conference schedule, Tulsa faced both Southern Miss and Memphis. The Golden Hurricane limited Southern Miss to 39 percent shooting, but the Golden Eagles escaped with a 62-59 victory at the Reynolds Center. At Memphis' FedEx Forum last week, the Hurricane was popped 94-64 - its worst loss since 2006.
Weekly honors: After scoring 13 points against Memphis and a career-high of 33 against Rice, East Carolina senior forward Maurice Kemp was voted the Conference USA player of the week. Against Rice, he converted on 13 free throws, totaled four assists and did not commit a turnover while playing all 40 minutes. With a 17.9 average, Kemp leads C-USA in scoring. Next are Tulane's Josh Davis (17.1) and Houston's Joseph Young (16.8).
For the third time this season, Rice point guard Max Guercy is the league's freshman of the week. During a 79-69 win over Houston, he had a season-high 21 points along with four assists and four rebounds.
1. Memphis: With a 30-point victory over Tulsa, Tigers have prevailed in 22 of their last 24 meetings with the Golden Hurricane.
2. Southern Miss: During a road win over UAB, the Golden Eagles shot 64 percent overall from the field and 10-of-17 on 3-pointers.
3. UTEP: Winners in nine of their last 12 games, the Miners have the league's third-best RPI ranking at No. 64. UTEP hosts Tulsa on Saturday.
4. Central Florida: Despite Keith Clanton's 24 points, the Knights' four-game win streak ended with 75-71 defeat at Marshall.
5. Tulsa: After consecutive losses to C-USA powers Southern Miss and Memphis, TU looks to get back on track against UAB.
6. East Carolina: On his 22nd birthday, Pirates senior Maurice Kemp scored a career-high 33 points as East Carolina beat Rice.
7. Marshall: A few days after losing by 56 points to Southern Miss, the up-and-down Thundering Herd conquers a good UCF team.
8. Houston: In conference play, the Cougars have the league's worst scoring defense (76.9-point average) and the worst turnover margin.
9. Tulane: Offense has unraveled in league play - Conference USA's worst field goal percentage and lowest scoring average.
10. SMU: The ultimate contrast in assignments - Mustangs host first-place Memphis on Wednesday and visit 5-16 Rice on Saturday.
11. UAB: While only 1-6 in C-USA, the Blazers played within four points of Southern Miss and qualify as a dangerous opponent for TU.
12. Rice: Brutal season - a 5-16 record overall, a 1-6 mark in league play, an attendance average of 1,590 and an RPI ranking of No. 308.
GAME OF THE WEEK
Memphis at Southern Miss, 3 p.m. Saturday, CBSSN-249
How good is this? If Memphis prevails at SMU on Wednesday, the Tigers will take a 13-game win streak to Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles, expecting a standing-room-only crowd, have an overall home win streak of 23 games.
Southern Miss hasn't lost a conference home game in nearly two years.