Southern Miss (11-4) at Rice (3-10)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Wednesday, January 9, 8 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Tudor Fieldhouse (5,208) -- Houston, Texas. Television: None. Home Record: USM 5-0, Rice 3-4. Away Record: USM 4-3, Rice 0-3. Neutral Record: USM 2-1, Rice 0-3. Conference Record: USM 0-0, Rice 0-0. Series Record: USM leads, 6-4.
GAME NOTES: The Southern Miss Golden Eagles are set to open their Conference USA schedule on the road, as they enter Tudor Fieldhouse to take on the Rice Owls.
Southern Miss has been victorious in five of its last six outings, including last week's 135-41 thrashing of outmatched Dillard, a NAIA school. Three nights prior to that, the Golden Eagles beat up on another NAIA school, William Carey, 89-59. However, the level of competition will certainly heat up now as the Golden Eagles dig into their league slate.
Meanwhile, Rice has dropped three in a row and five of its last six games, and that includes a lopsided 92-62 setback at Harvard over the weekend. The Owls will play three of their next four at home after spending the past two weeks on the road. While their 3-10 overall record leaves much to be desired, all three of the team's wins this season have come inside the Tudor Fieldhouse.
USM has won the last three meetings with Rice, including a 58-56 win in Hattiesburg last season, to take a 6-4 series lead.
For the Black and Gold, juniors Daveon Boardingham and Cedric Jenkins both set career-highs against Dillard with 22 points apiece. Another junior, Neil Watson, set a new school record with 17 assists, one of many records set in the victory. Among the single-game team marks were most points (135), steals (27), 3-pointers (18) and margin of victory (+94). By game's end, the Golden Eagles had a forced a school-record 36 turnovers. That said, anything less than a dominant performance against an inferior opponent would have no doubt been cause for concern. On the season, Dwayne Davis leads the team with 13.3 points per game, while Michael Craig is averaging 10.1 points and 5.7 boards. Craig rank third in C-USA in field-goal percentage (.567) and he is second with 1.9 steals per tilt. The Golden Eagles have played sound defense under first-year coach Donnie Tyndall, as they are second in the conference with 57.9 ppg allowed and rank second nationally with 12.3 steals per game.
Leading the way for Rice is Tamir Jackson with 17.2 points and 6.8 rebounds per contest. However, Jackson has accumulated his scoring numbers behind a rather lackluster 37.9-percent shooting from the floor, and he is averaging only 2.1 assists. He is also the only Owl averaging double figures, having nearly doubled the scoring output of second leading scorer Julian DeBose (9.5 ppg). The lack of offensive balance has really plagued the Owls throughout the season, as defenses have paid extra attention to Jackson. In the 30-point loss to Harvard a few nights ago, Jackson was held to 4-of-12 shooting as he finished with 14 points, nine rebounds and five turnovers. Freshman Max Guercy did step up with 19 points behind a perfect 4-of-4 effort from the perimeter, although he has yet to show he can replicate that type of effort from game to game. The Owls were simply abysmal on the defensive end, as they allowed Harvard to shoot 64.6 percent for the game.
Coming off back-to-back victories over teams they were able to walk all over, the Golden Eagles now open their C-USA slate against what so far has been one of the conference's weakest teams. Soon enough, they'll run into a team that can fight back, although Rice has not proven up to that sort of challenge.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Southern Miss 82, Rice 69
01/09 10:34:32 ET