Checking in on… Conference USA

Posted by rtmsf on January 13th, 2009

Allen R. of Houston Basketball Junkies is the RTC correspondent for Conference USA. 

CUSA Basketball Standings:

  1. Memphis  12-3 (2-0)
  2. Houston  10-3 (1-0)
  3. Tulsa  10-5 (1-0)
  4. UTEP  10-5 (1-0)
  5. East Carolina  9-6 (1-1)
  6. Marshall  8-7 (1-1)
  7. Tulane  7-8 (1-1)
  8. UCF  10-5 (0-1)
  9. Southern Miss  9-5 (0-1)
  10. UAB  9-6 (0-1)
  11. SMU  5-8 (0-1)
  12. Rice  5-10 (0-1)

Now that the proverbial dark cloud of non-conference play has passed, there’s the excitement of Conference USA basketball.  Everyone is now 0-0 and has their chances (some larger than others) to make a statement in the second half of the season. As this week started it didn’t matter if you were Memphis or SMU, a new season has begun for your team.

1.)  Same ‘Ol, Same ‘Ol in Memphis: There may be some surprises in conference play this season, but it doesn’t look the Tigers will be providing as many of them. In their conference opener at the FedEx Forum, Memphis dominated from start to finish in an 80-57 win over Marshall. The Tigers got a balanced scoring effort from Tyreke Evans and company. Things got scary in Orlando though as the Tigers got a stiff road test from UCF. Before last Saturday’s game, the athletic department encouraged all Knight fans to come to the arena “armored in black” to create a blackout effect. The Tigers ended up winning 73-66 due in large part to a 13 point effort from reserve Roburt Sallie. While this may be the season Memphis loses a conference game, it’s still been over 1000 days since that’s happened.

2.) UABlasted: Despite losing some scholarship players in December and playing with a short bench, UAB had played well and looked like they weren’t affected by these losses. Well that was until they made a trip to play Houston this past weekend to open conference play. The typically hot-shooting Blazer guard Robert Vaden was held to 10 points and 1-8 shooting from beyond the arc. As a team the Blazers were held to a measly 6.3% (1-16) from the three-point line. The Cougars got a 25 point effort from Aubrey Coleman, who scored all of his points in the second half.  Kelvin Lewis also had 19 points and Marcus Cousin had 12 points and 12 rebounds for his 5th double-double of the year. The Cougars and Blazers both have a lot of questions to answer as conference play continues.

3.) Jackson Becomes an All-Timer: I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that a few weeks back, UTEP guard Stefon Jackson is the all-time leading scorer in Miner basketball history. Jackson scored 44 points against Santa Clara in the Cable Car Classic and passed Brandon Wolfram’s 1,831 point total for the all-time record. The Miners have a great basketball history, so it’s pretty incredible that Jackson has accomplished this feat.

4.) A Few Non-Conference Highlights: There’s been no shortage of embarrassing losses for Conference USA in this basketball season. But there were a few highlights from this past week that are worth mentioning. UTEP went to New Mexico’s always intimidating home court: the Pit, and not only won, but blew out the Lobos. Stefon Jackson led the Miners with 18 points and Randy Culpepper also added 14. It’s worth noting in the second half that the Miners outscored the Lobos 49-33…  I’ve been very hard on SMU basketball and coach Matt Doherty in my weekly updates. But the Mustangs deserve big credit for beating Colorado 70-67 last Monday in Dallas. The Buffaloes may be the worst team in the Big 12, but the Mustangs won’t be picky about quality wins after the awful start they had this season. Derek Williams led the Ponys with 14 points and Bamba Fall had 13…  Ever since they beat Texas A&M in the South Padre invitational, Tulsa looked like they were in some kind of funk. Well, the Golden Hurricane went on the road and beat Atlantic 10 foe Charlotte 65-50 last Saturday. Big man Jerome Jordan led the Golden Hurricane with 16 points.

5.) CUSA Player of the Week: With the start of conference play I’ve decided to single out a player who was of the highest value to his respective team. Senior guard/forward Jermaine Taylor from UCF averaged 26.5 points in his two games last week. Last Monday the Golden Knights won their 12th game in a row at home in a 70-57 wins over Holy Cross. Also, in what was probably the most important game of the Knights’ season against Memphis, Taylor had 24 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists. The Tigers ended up winning, but not before the Knights and Taylor gave them all they could handle. I can’t think of a player right now who’s more valuable to his team than Taylor.

rtmsf (3998 Posts)

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