UAB (16-16) vs. Southern Miss (23-8)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, March 14, 1 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: BOK Center (17,390) -- Tulsa, Oklahoma. Television: CBSSN. Home Record: UAB 11-4, USM 12-1. Away Record: UAB 4-10, USM 9-7. Neutral Record: UAB 1-2, USM 2-0. Conference Record: UAB 7-9, USM 12-4. Series Record: UAB leads, 24-16.
GAME NOTES: The second-seeded Southern Miss Golden Eagles try to keep their hopes of returning to the Big Dance alive as they take on the seventh-seeded UAB Blazers in the quarterfinals of the Conference USA Tournament at the BOK Center.
The winner of this game will take on either Texas-El Paso or Houston, pending results of their quarterfinal matchup.
UAB has been guided by rookie head coach Jerod Haase, who led the team to a 15-16 record during his first regular season at the helm of the program before earning his first postseason victory on Wednesday with a 53-52 decision over SMU. The Blazers are fifth in the C-USA in team scoring with an average of 72.2 ppg, but they are fourth to last on the defensive end, where they give up 71.5 ppg. The steady scoring has come through unselfish team play that yields 16.3 assists per outing, which is the 12th best average in the nation.
Jordan Swing made the game-winning layup with nine seconds remaining, as UAB defeated SMU in the first round on Wednesday. Swing scored a game-high 17 points and grabbed nine boards for the Blazers. Rod Rucker had 11 points and seven rebounds. The forward combo of Rucker (14.5 ppg, 8.3 rpg) and Swing (14.1 ppg) is among the best in the conference. None of the other Blazers reached double-figures against the Mustangs as the team shot only 35.4 percent from the field. However, UAB made a rare strong showing on the defensive end as it limited the Mustangs to only 28.6 percent efficiency from the field.
This will be the 41st bout between these schools on the hardwood in history. USM completed the season-series sweep with a 75-59 win in Hattiesburg on Jan. 19 and a 79-75 decision in Birmingham on Feb. 2.
Southern Miss (23-8, 12-4) finished second behind Memphis and is the only team thought to have a chance of going to the NCAA Tournament other than the Tigers, although that seems unlikely after its late-season upset loss to Marshall, a squad it beat by 56 points earlier in the campaign. Donnie Tyndale's squad played very well during his first season with the program though as it defeated the likes of Western Kentucky, Georgia and Denver along with all of its league rivals other than Memphis.
The Golden Eagles have a balanced attack led by Dwayne Davis's 15.9 ppg. Jonathan Mills is one of the conference's top rebounders with 7.4 boards per tilt and Neil Watson delivers 4.9 assists and 1.7 steals per contest from the point guard slot.
USM is clearly the better team here. The Golden Eagles are susceptible to upsets, but they should be able to advance as there is too much riding on this one. UAB will need to find its shooting touch in a hurry or it will be buried easily by a very talented USM unit.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Southern Miss 73, UAB 66
03/14 10:39:39 ET