U-C-F (18-6) at Southern Miss (20-4)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, February 11th, 5:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Reed Green Coliseum (8,095) -- Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Television: BHSN. Home Record: UCF 13-1, Southern Miss 11-0. Away Record: UCF 3-4, Southern Miss 7-3. Neutral Record: UCF 2-1, Southern Miss 2-1. Conference Record: UCF 7-3, Southern Miss 7-2. Series Record: Southern Miss leads, 6-5.
GAME NOTES: Two teams battling for Conference USA supremacy square off today in Hattiesburg, as the Southern Miss Golden Eagles play host to the UCF Knights.
UCF is enjoying a stellar season with an 18-6 record overall and a 7-3 mark in conference, which has it just a half game out of first place coming into the weekend. The Knights have not found much success on the road however, winning just three of its seven away tilts. They are winners of three straight games overall, which includes a 67-60 decision over Marshall on Wednesday.
Southern Miss has been even more impressive on the campaign, sitting atop the conference standings at 7-2 and it is the only C-USA team to have reached 20 wins overall. Much of its success can be attributed to an undefeated mark at home. The Golden Eagles had a five-game win streak stopped as they dropped a 71-61 decision at UAB on Wednesday.
Southern Miss won the first meeting with UCF this season, 78-65, back on January 28 to take a 6-5 lead in the all-time series.
UCF has not been very efficient at the offensive end of the court this season, scoring 66.4 ppg while ranking in the bottom-third of the conference in field goal percentage (.427), three-point FG percentage (.302), and free-throw percentage (.632). The defense for the Knights has picked up the slack however, allowing just 61.2 ppg while opponents shoot just 41.1 percent from the field. They held Marshall to 39 percent shooting overall and staved off a late comeback attempt to hang on for the win. Keith Clanton paced UCF with 20 points and seven rebounds, moving into fourth place on the school's all-time rebounding list in the process. On the season, Clanton ranks eighth in the C- USA in scoring (15.3 ppg), fifth in rebounding (9.0 rpg) and third in blocks (1.8 bpg). Marcus Jordan barely bests Clanton as the team's top scorer, netting 15.5 ppg. Isaiah Sykes adds 11.5 ppg and 6.5 rpg to the mix, but he has stepped up his game of late, averaging 14.7 points and 8.3 caroms per contest over the last three games.
Southern Miss has been solid at both ends of the floor this season, ranking third in C-USA in scoring offense (71.9 ppg) and fifth in scoring defense (62.7 ppg) -- all leading to a league-best scoring margin of +9.2. Both units struggled in Wednesday's loss however, as the Golden Eagles shot 41.7 percent from the floor while allowing UAB to connect on an eye-popping 60.5 percent of its total shots. Southern Miss had three players reach double digits in the defeat, led by Jonathan Mills with 14 points. The Golden Eagles don't have one go-to guy but instead have several reliable scorers upon which to lean. Darnell Dodson (13.3 ppg, 5.6 rpg) and Maurice Bolden (10.5 ppg, 5.8 rpg) provide a solid presence inside, while LaShay Page (12.5 ppg, 2.6 three- pointer per outing) and Neil Watson (11.2 ppg, .888 free-throw percentage) do most of their damage from the outside. Southern Miss has been one of the league's most efficient teams, ranking first in turnover margin (+2.92) and free-throw percentage (.750), while also claiming a solid rebounding margin (+5.2 rpg).
These teams have both proven themselves to be a force in C-USA, but the fact that the Golden Eagles have been dominant in front of their home crowd mixed with the Knights' poor road record is too much overlook when anticipating the outcome of this pivotal clash.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Southern Miss 70, UCF 64
02/11 10:43:48 ET