Bill Haisten's Conference USA Insider
BY BILL HAISTEN World Sports Writer
Wednesday, February 20, 2013
2/20/13 at 4:44 AM
Memphis: Now with a winning streak of 16 games, the Tigers finally are attracting national attention. Memphis is in the top 25 of both the Associated Press poll and the RPI. As recently as two weeks ago, the Tigers still were not ranked in the AP poll. Memphis has two home dates this week. Houston visits on Wednesday and Southern Miss visits for an interesting Saturday clash.
Tulsa: Having recorded victories at UTEP and over Houston, the Golden Hurricane has a favorable remaining schedule and a chance to close the regular season in a strong manner. Considering the litany of injuries that has affected the Tulsa roster this season, a 10-victory league finish would qualify as very impressive. East Carolina visits the Reynolds Center on Wednesday.
SMU: Since a 10-4 start, the Larry Brown-coached Mustangs have plummeted to 13-13 overall and 3-8 in Conference USA play. While consistently competitive, SMU simply can't find a way to make winning plays at crunch time. In their eight league defeats, the average margin was eight points. During a 78-67 loss at Tulane, the Mustangs shot 56 percent from the field but self-destructed with 19 turnovers.
During a wild victory over Houston - 101-92 in the first triple-overtime home game in Hurricane program history - Tulsa freshman Rashad Ray played 24 minutes after being whistled for his fourth foul. Ray continues to develop as a consistently solid and occasionally dynamic playmaker. In conference play, Ray and senior Scottie Haralson are a combined 45-of-50 on free throws.
News and notes
Memphis update: Entering Wednesday's home date with Houston, Memphis has a 16-game winning streak - the second-longest in college basketball. Akron is the national leader with a 17-game run.
In this week's Associated Press poll, Memphis was included on 64 of the 65 ballots submitted by media members. Sports Illustrated's Seth Davis reportedly was the only voter who did not rank the Tigers in his top 25.
"Even if you don't vote for us in the AP or coaches' poll, I still love everybody," Tiger coach Josh Pastner told the Memphis Commercial Appeal. "You know what? I'm OK with it.
"The best thing that we can do, regardless of polls, is just to try to keep on winning. We've got to keep on winning."
With five games remaining on the regular-season schedule, the Tigers are 22-3 overall, 11-0 in Conference USA and have a two-game lead over Southern Miss in the league standings. Southern Miss plays at Memphis on Saturday. The Tigers are attempting to repeat both as champions of the C-USA regular season and tournament. The C-USA Tournament is set for March 13-16 at Tulsa's BOK Center.
"This week is big - not only for (conference tournament seeding), but we're trying to win out, period," Memphis forward Tarik Black told the Commercial Appeal. "Just to automatically be in the first-seed spot - yes, that's cool. That's nice. But our main goal is to try to go undefeated all through conference play."
Pirates' star: On Wednesday, East Carolina brings to Tulsa's Reynolds Center one of the more complete players in Conference USA. Senior forward Maurice Kemp leads the league in scoring at 18.0 points per game. He also ranks eighth in rebounding (7.8 average) and 10th in field goal percentage (.502).
1. Memphis: Since the start of the 2006 Conference USA schedule, the Tigers are 52-10 in road games - a winning percentage of .839.
2. Southern Miss: After prevailing in OT over East Carolina, the Golden Eagles reached 20-win mark for the fourth consecutive season.
3. Central Florida: During a 15-point defeat at UTEP, the Knights attempted nearly as many 3-point shots (28) as 2-point shots (34).
4. Tulsa: At .667, Hurricane senior forward Kauri Black continues to have Conference USA's best field goal percentage in league play.
5. UTEP: After losses to Tulsa and Houston, Miners recovered with 53 percent shooting and an impressive victory over Central Florida.
6. East Carolina: During a bitter loss to Southern Miss, Akeem Richmond tied the East Carolina school record with eight 3-pointers.
7. Tulane: During an 11-point conquest of SMU, the Green Wave outscored the Mustangs 42-6 from 3-point range.
8. UAB: Since a 1-6 start in Conference USA play, the Jerod Haase-coached Blazers have prevailed in three of their last four games.
9. Marshall: For some reason, Thundering Herd tends to play well against Memphis. Marshall pushed the Tigers before falling 71-59 last week.
10. Houston: With 31-point, 15-rebound performance at TU, Cougar forward Tashawn Thomas was voted the C-USA player of the week.
11. SMU: As a college head coach, Larry Brown has an overall record of 190-74. In his first season at SMU, he is 13-13.
12. Rice: In an 80-57 loss to UAB, the woeful Owls shot just 36 percent from the field overall and 17 percent on 3-pointers.
GAME OF THE WEEK
So. Miss at Memphis, noon Saturday, FCSA-272
A rematch of their Feb. 9 contest, won 89-76 by the Tigers at Hattiesburg, Miss. Saturday's showdown will be played at Memphis' FedEx Forum, where the Tigers are nearly unbeatable. In nine seasons in the 18,400-seat arena, Memphis is 159-18. During the first meeting of these teams, Memphis shot 56 percent from the field.