FACTS & STATS: Site: Bernard Johnson Coliseum (6,110) -- Huntsville, Texas. Television: Nine. Home Record: USM 1-0, Liberty 0-1. Away Record: USM 2-0, Liberty 0-3. Neutral Record: USM 1-0, Liberty 0-1. Conference Record: USM 0-0, Liberty 0-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: Hoping that perhaps a first-ever encounter can finally get them over the hump, the Liberty Flames take on the Golden Eagles of Southern Miss as part of subregional action in the Legends Classic at Bernard Johnson Coliseum in Huntsville, Texas.
So far, the start to the 2012-13 campaign has been rather unkind to the Flames, the team losing all five of their outings. Only once has the squad lost by less than double figures and, oddly enough, that came against a Georgetown team that just defeated nationally-ranked UCLA a few nights back in New York.
Since that setback to the Hoyas, Liberty has bowed to UC Irvine by 18 points and Sam Houston State on Tuesday in a 64-50 final.
While the Flames continue to struggle, the Golden Eagles are riding a high that comes from winning four consecutive games right out of the chute. There were a couple of overtime decisions against Western Kentucky and Georgia for USM before posting a double-digit triumph versus Sam Houston State on Monday. But on Tuesday the team was back to playing close games as it survived by just four points versus UC Irvine, 69-65.
Southern Miss opened with a 6-0 run against the Anteaters on Tuesday and led by as many as eight points in the meeting, but the squad also saw a 16-point swing and a 63-63 tie with just over two minutes remaining before layups and free throws secured the victory. Michael Craig, who scored the first points of the contest, finished with 21 to lead USM, adding eight rebounds and three assists for good measure. Jonathan Mills tacked on 14 points and seven boards as the team dominated on the glass (35-20), so much so that they had almost as many offensive rebounds (17) as UCI had total. Shooting 60.0 percent from the floor through the first four games, Craig is someone who can do a little bit of everything for the Golden Eagles from scoring (11.0 ppg), to rebounding (5.3 rpg) and passing (11 assists).
Even though Liberty led by a few points early in the first half, the team wasn't going to be very competitive by shooting only 6-of-23 from the floor over the first 20 minutes of action. The squad converted just 2-of-9 behind the three-point line and 1-of-3 at the free-throw line in the period, and it didn't get much better after that. Davon Marshall was the lone double-digit scorer for the group with his 15 points on 3-of-7 shooting behind the three- point line and he was the only Liberty player to make more than just two field goals overall. Just as he was on Tuesday, Marshall is the only player on the team averaging double-digit scoring as well with his 12.6 ppg. Marshall is getting the job done with an impressive 15-of-33 (.455) out on the perimeter, and yet the team overall is still shooting just 36.3 percent from the floor.
One would assume that, based on the records of both these teams, that the Golden Eagles should have an easy time of it, but stranger things have already happened in college basketball in the first two weeks.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Southern Miss 69, Liberty 56
11/21 10:33:03 ET
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