The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Sunday, March 2, 2 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: FAU Arena (5,000) -- Boca Raton, Florida. Television: None. Home Record: USM 14-0, FAU 7-6. Away Record: USM 7-5, FAU 3-11. Neutral Record: USM 3-0, FAU 0-2. Conference Record: USM 11-3, FAU 5-9. Series Record:.
GAME NOTES: The Southern Miss Golden Eagles will attempt to continue their quest for the Conference USA regular-season title on Sunday afternoon when they travel to FAU Arena to take on the Florida Atlantic Owls.
USM is in the midst of an outstanding season overall at 24-5, and at 11-3 in C-USA, it is in for a wild final week of the regular season as it battles with Louisiana Tech, Middle Tennessee and Tulsa for the regular-season conference title. The Golden Eagles have won three straight games, all at home, most recently downing FIU on Thursday night, 78-66.
FAU, meanwhile, has been disappointing this season at just 10-19 overall and 5-9 in league action, and news came down earlier in the week that head coach Mike Jarvis will resign from his post at season's end. The Owls are losers of four straight games, including a 72-64 setback at Tulane on Wednesday, but they have gone a solid 7-6 at home.
This marks the first-ever meeting on the hardwood between these newly- acquainted conference rivals.
The Golden Eagles opened up a 12-point halftime lead earlier in the week and cruised from that point forward, never allowing FIU to get within nine points after intermission. Even though they were outshot from the field, 49 percent to 45.8 percent, they shot 20-of-29 from the free-throw line and forced FIU into 25 turnovers, which resulted in 21 points. Matt Bingaya paced the effort with 20 points, Daveon Boardingham tallied 14 points and eight rebounds, Jerrold Brooks scored 11 and handed out seven assists and Jeremiah Eason came off the bench to net 10.
On the season, USM has been stellar on both ends of the floor, shooting 46.8 percent from the field for 73.2 ppg while allowing a mere 63.2 ppg on less than 43 percent shooting, and it also owns impressive margins in terms of rebounding (+6.4) and turnovers (+3.0). Michael Craig puts up team highs in scoring (11.1 ppg) and rebounding (7.4 rpg), while shooting 57.9 percent from the field. Neil Watson (11.0 ppg, 4.2 apg), Boardingham (10.5 ppg), Brooks (9.6 ppg) and Aaron Brown (9.5 ppg) round out the balanced attack.
The Owls appeared destined to snap their losing streak early in their most recent game, as they ran out to a commanding 19-4 lead less than nine minutes in, but after shooting 59.1 percent from the field in the opening stanza, they regressed to a mere 37.9 percent in the second half as they ultimately fell on the wrong end of the eight-point decision. Although they held Tulane to just 35.6 percent field-goal shooting, they were outscored at the foul line, 26-12, and lost the rebounding battle, 44-30. Pablo Bertone was stellar despite the defeat, shooting 12-of-17 from the field for 28 points, while Jackson Trapp added seven points and seven assists.
FAU has failed to stand out on the offensive end of the court this season, shooting just 42.9 percent from the field for 67.0 ppg, which has all but ruined a solid season on defense (.422, 68.8 ppg). Bertone is an impressive scorer with 18.9 ppg on 45.2 percent field-goal shooting, but he has more turnovers (78) than assists (62). Marquan Botley (10.3 ppg), Justin Raffington (9.9 ppg, 8.7 rpg) and Trapp (9.0 ppg) are also regular performers.
FAU is all but checked out this season, especially with a lame duck coach, so expect USM to overcome its road surroundings to stay alive in the race for first place.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Southern Miss 73, Florida Atlantic 65
03/02 10:35:23 ET