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East Carolina (15-15) vs. Southern Miss (24-7)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, March 8, 1:00 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: FedExForum (18,119) -- Memphis, Tennessee. Television: CBSSN. Home Record: ECU 10-7, USM 15-0. Away Record: ECU 3-8, USM 7-6. Neutral Record: ECU 2-0, USM 2-1. Conference Record: 5-11, USM 11-5. Series Record: Southern Miss leads 12-7.
GAME NOTES: The Conference USA Tournament moves to the quarterfinals this afternoon, as the 10th-seeded East Carolina Pirates take on the second-seeded Southern Miss Golden Eagles at FedEx Forum in Memphis, Tennessee.
East Carolina pulled off a 68-66 upset of seventh-seeded Rice in Wednesday's first round to advance. Despite having just a 15-15 record overall, the Pirates have been one of the hottest teams in C-USA lately, winning three straight games dating back to the regular season after losing their previous five.
Southern Miss sports a 24-7 record overall and it earned the No. 2 seed in the tournament, its highest seeding since 2001 when it also was the second seed. It also marks just the third time it has ever received a first-round bye in the C-USA Tournament. The Golden Eagles spent much of the regular season atop the conference standings, but they closed the slate by losing three of their last five games to fall to 11-5 and in the process were overtaken by Memphis as the No. 1 seed.
The Golden Eagles have a 12-7 advantage over the Pirates in the all-time series. Southern Miss swept the series this season and has won seven in a row over ECU overall.
In a first-round game that featured 13 lead changes, East Carolina finally took the advantage from Rice for good on a Maurice Kemp layup with 57 seconds left to advance to today's matchup. It was a peculiar win for the Pirates, as they shot just 42.6 percent from the field and allowed Rice to make 51 percent of its total shots, but they were aided by the help of 10 three-pointers while Rice connected on just four tries from long distance. Darrius Morrow paced four players in double figures with 16 points, surpassing the 1,500-point plateau for his career, while Erin Straughn tallied 13 points and a season- high 11 rebounds. ECU's offensive attack is typically led by point guard Miguel Paul, who nets 15.0 ppg and leads the conference in assists with 5.8 per game. Morrow (13.9 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 1.1 bpg) and Maurice Kemp (10.2 ppg, 6.3 rpg) offer support from their spots in the ECU frontcourt.
Southern Miss owns the league's worst field goal percentage (.418), but thanks to a third-ranked three-point field goal percentage (.364) and the conference's best rate at the foul line (.740), it is still able to put up an impressive 71.6 ppg, third most in C-USA. The Golden Eagles also have a stellar defense, allowing just 64.2 ppg in logging the conference's second- largest scoring margin (+7.4). They possess one of the most balanced offensive attacks in the league, as they have six players who average at least 9.0 ppg, paced by Second Team All-Conference USA selection Neil Watson, who tallies 12.1 ppg and 4.5 apg while ranking second in both assist-to-turnover ratio (2.1), and free-throw percentage (.856). Jonathan Mills put up 9.8 ppg and 6.2 rpg and was named to the All-league Third Team, making Watson and Mills the first pair of Golden Eagles to be named to an All-CUSA team since 2000-01. Southern Miss is led by eighth-year head coach Larry Eustachy, who was tabbed the Conference USA Coach of the Year.
East Carolina's hot streak will be put to the test against a potent Southern Miss team, and while the Pirates are certainly capable of pulling off another upset, the Golden Eagles will be rested and ready to put up a big number on the scoreboard.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Southern Miss 75, East Carolina 69
03/08 10:33:05 ET
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