The top two teams in Conference USA get together at FedExForum on Saturday, as the 21st-ranked Memphis Tigers play host to the Southern Miss Golden Eagles.
Josh Pastner's Tigers are a flawless 12-0 in conference play. The team holds a two-game lead over Southern Miss with five games to play and is closing in on the C-USA crown. Memphis has been as impressive as any team in the country and brings a 17-game win streak into this contest following Tuesday's 81-74 win against Houston.
Donnie Tyndall's first season in Hattiesburg has been highly successful, with Southern Miss sitting at 21-6 overall and a stellar 10-2 in CUSA action. The Golden Eagles aren't sporting a lengthy win streak like Memphis, but they do come in with a more modest three-game win streak, following a 45-39 defensive battle with UTEP on Wednesday.
Memphis has taken control of the all-time series that now stands at 65-24 with wins in 19 of the last 20 meetings. The Tigers have won 12 straight in Memphis and are seeking the regular-season sweep after posting an 89-76 victory on Feb. 9 in Hattiesburg.
The Golden Eagles only shot .333 from the floor against UTEP, but it was enough, as Southern Miss held the Miners to a mere 30 percent shooting in a game that featured just 84 combined points. Jerrold Brooks led the team 13 points. Neil Watson chipped in with 11, while Daveon Boardingham finished with eight points and eight rebounds.
Despite the less-than-stellar offensive performance against UTEP, Southern Miss has been a strong offensive team overall, averaging 73.0 ppg on a healthy .483 shooting. The defensive performance has been constant though, with foes averaging just 59.8 ppg on under 40 percent from the floor (.397). The team also benefits from a +6.6 rebounding margin. Dwayne Davis is one of two Golden Eagles averaging double figures at 13.8 ppg. Brooks is the other at 10.7 ppg. Watson adds 9.3 ppg to the mix, while doubling as the team's primary distributor (5.0 apg).
Houston took its shots in the second half, but Memphis was able to hold on to keep the win streak alive and remain unbeaten in league play. Adonis Thomas led five Tigers in double figures in the win with 22 points. Tarik Black added 15 points, followed by D.J. Stephens (14 pts), Chris Crawford (11 pts) and Joe Jackson (11 pts). Stephens and Crawford both finished with double-doubles with 13 and 10 rebounds, respectively. Memphis was able to convert 53.6 percent from the floor and won the rebounding battle, 40-25.
A strong offensive squad, Memphis is averaging 75.1 ppg (26th nationally). Three of the team's five starters are averaging double figures, while two others are netting eight points or more. Jackson is the top offensive threat at 13.7 ppg, as he connects on 53.9 percent from the floor, including 48.3 percent from behind the arc. Thomas is next in line with 11.8 ppg, followed by Geron Johnson's 10.9 ppg.