GAME NOTES: A couple of Conference USA squads with identical overall records get together at Reed Green Coliseum as the Southern Miss Golden Eagles host the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs.
Coming over from the Western Athletic Conference, the Bulldogs have made the transition in fine fashion, putting up 15 wins in 18 opportunities in 2013-14. Louisiana Tech is a perfect 3-0 in conference play as well, thanks to a 73-45 thrashing of Tulane on Thursday night on the road.
The Bulldogs have won seven straight outings and nine of the last 10, the one setback coming against Oklahoma State (70-55) during the All-College Classic in Oklahoma City on Dec. 14.
Meanwhile, the Golden Eagles are hoping to build on their 84-62 victory against the Rice Owls three nights ago at home. That win was the sixth in the last seven outings for the program, the one loss coming against Tulsa in conference play, which is why USM is 2-1 in the standings.
The Golden Eagles own a 42-29 lead in the all-time series.
In one of the more impressive defensive efforts in recent memory, the Bulldogs held Tulane to just 23,3 percent shooting from the floor and 0-of-14 behind the 3-point line during the 28-point blowout at Devlin Fieldhouse. Kenyon McNeail and Jaron Johnson both came off the bench to post 14 points for the visitors, followed by Alex Hamilton and Chris Anderson with 11 points apiece and a combined 13 rebounds. Overall, Louisiana Tech dominated the glass to the tune of 53-37.
The leading scorer for the Bulldogs on the season, Raheem Appleby (16.1 ppg), doesn't appear to be coming back any time soon to the lineup with his sprained left ankle, which means Hamilton (14.8 ppg) and Anderson (10.6 ppg) are being asked to carry more of the offensive burden for the program for the time being. What's great about the Bulldogs is their balanced scoring attack as they averaged 85.2 ppg, thanks in large part to the effort of Kenneth Smith (6.8 ppg) and his staggering 113 assists over the course of 17 contests.
Against the Owls, Southern Miss was never really challenged as the host shot not only 51.9 percent from the field but also 10-of-20 behind the 3-point line. It also helped that the Golden Eagles dominated the glass, producing a 43-20 edge in rebounding. Off the bench the team leaned on Michael Craig and Aaron Brown who posted 16 and 15 points, respectively, while combining for 15 boards, followed by Neil Watson with 12 points and six assists. Not to be overlooked were Chip Armelin and Daveon Boardingham with 10 points apiece, the latter clearing eight rebounds and handing out five assists.
Like the Bulldogs, USM also utilizes a balanced attack on offense that features four players scoring in double figures, but not one of them coming up with even 12 ppg at the moment. Heading the list is Watson with 11.4 ppg, thanks in large part to his 41.2 percent accuracy beyond the arc, while Craig (10.9 ppg), Boardingham (10.7 ppg) and Aaron Brown (10.0 ppg) help to shoulder the load for a squad that is outscoring the opposition by 10.8 ppg, even though those teams have made 26 more 3-point baskets.
This is certainly a game that could produce some significant numbers on both sides of the ledger, but with Appleby not ready to return for the Bulldogs it is clear that the visitors are at a disadvantage.
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