GAME NOTES: The Southern Miss Golden Eagles try to keep their hopes of capturing the Conference USA title alive as they journey to Minges Coliseum for a matchup with the East Carolina Panthers.
This is the first of two meetings between these schools this season. USM and ECU will clash again in Hattiesburg on March 2. Coming into the inaugural encounter of the 2012-13 campaign, the Golden Eagles hold a 13-7 all-time series lead.
Donnie Tyndale's Golden Eagles come in with a 19-6 record, 8-2 in C-USA action. USM snapped a two-game slide that consisted of setbacks to UCF (60-58) and Memphis (89-76) with an easy, 71-60 victory over Tulane. Senior guard Dwayne Davis led the charge with 21 points, his second consecutive 20-point performance. Jerrold Brooks chimed in with 14 points and Daveon Boardingham grabbed a team-high eight rebounds. Davis is scoring a team-high 13.8 ppg while the 6-foot-6 senior forward Jonathan Mills pulls down a team-best 6.8 boards per game.
In the triumph over the Green Wave, USM knocked down 54.3 percent from the floor and forced 18 turnovers, while holding Tulane to 44.7 percent shooting from the field. Southern Miss is scoring 73.6 points per game but allowing just 59.6, which leads Conference USA. The Golden Eagles are shooting 48.8- percent from the floor and allowing its opponents to just 39.7-percent, which are first and third in the league, respectively. Tyndall is in his first season at the helm of the program after holding the same position at Morehead State previously.
Although the Pirates came out of their last outing with a 74-61 victory over UAB, ECU's offensive struggles continued. The team scored over 80 points in 10 of its first 19 games before being held under that mark in its previous five outings. Senior forward Maurice Kemp will become the first Pirate in 20 years to score 20 points in four straight games if he reaches that many on Saturday after tallying 33 at Rice, 24 at UCF and 23 versus UAB. Kemp leads the squad in scoring with 18.3 ppg on 50.7 percent shooting from the floor, while Miguel Paul contributes 12.8 points and 6.4 assists per contest. Robert Sampson anchors the interior with 9.0 rpg to go along with 1.8 bpg.
Paul's excellent distributing skills are a big reason why ECU is ranked seventh in the nation with 17.0 assists per contest. Jeff Lebo's team is apparently beginning to find its shooting touch with 16 makes from long range and a 27-of-35 (77.1 percent) clip at the charity stripe over the past two games.
This is a key game for both teams as they both are wrestling for position in the league standings. USM is basically in a must win situation to keep its conference title hopes alive. The Golden Eagles have enough athleticism and depth to limit Kemp's production, but they will need to account for Paul and Ty Armstrong to earn a decision.
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