Stephen Coulter is the RTC correspondent for Conference USA.
A Look Back
- Memphis Tops UAB in OT Duel For Conference Supremacy. Memphis took a one-game conference lead over UAB last Saturday night when the Tigers beat the Blazers 76-73 in OT in one of the best games in the early part of the conference season. In the final two minutes of regulation, there were four lead changes, which ultimately resulted in a tie. In overtime, the Tigers, led by the dynamic Will Barton, took control and limited the Blazers to a mere five points in extra play. Barton finished with 17 points, eight rebounds and three assists, while UAB’s Cameron Moore led all scorers with 24 points and 11 rebounds. Despite missing five of six free throws in the final 25 seconds of overtime, and shooting a putrid 14-27 from the charity stripe, the Tigers held off the Blazers to earn their third consecutive win.
- UTEP KOs Houston On The Road, Snaps’ Cougars Three-Game Win Streak. UTEP handed in-state foe Houston its first home loss in conference play last weekend, while extending their win-streak to three games. In addition, the loss halts Houston’s own three-game win-streak and drops them a game back in the conference standings. In what was a back-and-forth game, the Miners’ Randy Culpepper finished with 18 points, while teammate Julyan Stone dropped four crucial points in the game’s final minute.
- Marshall Edges No. 21 West Virginia in Chesapeake Energy Classic. Last week, the Thundering Herd dropped the Mountaineers, the then-No. 21-ranked team in the AP poll, 75-71. Marshall got off to a fast start, jumping out to a 35-21 lead in the first half, and they never looked back. The Herd got its first trademark win under first-year head coach Tom Herrion knocking off in-state rival WVU behind a dynamic performance from Damier Pitts. The junior guard exploded for a career-high 25 points, while recording four rebounds and five assists.
- SMU Earns Second Quality Conference Win By Knocking off So. Miss. Two of the conference’s most inconsistent teams shared the court last weekend, resulting in SMU’s second conference win of the season and their second against a team win 14 wins or more. Earlier this season, SMU topped Memphis, however, the Mustangs have been consistent all season long. The game also featured two of the conference’s premier post-players in SMU’s Papa Dia and USM’s Gary Flowers.
- Bottom-dweller Rice Halts UCF, Drops Knights To 1-4 In Conference Play. Head coach Donnie Jones can’t seem to catch a break. After starting off 1-2 in conference with a pair of road losses, Jones’ Knights couldn’t get their second conference win despite playing back-to-back home games against teams that ranked near the bottom in conference standings. Following a shocking 12-point loss to East Carolina, the Knights fell to lowly Rice 57-50 last Saturday. Since starting 14-0, UCF has lost four in a row.
- Tulane’s losing streak extends to three with loss to Tulsa. After winning nine of ten, Tulane has dropped three consecutive conference games following last weekend’s 65-61 home-loss to Tulsa. The Green Wave could not overcome five Golden Hurricane players scoring in double figures.
- East Carolina Rises Behind Jontae Sherrod’s Strong Performance. Senior guard Jontae Sherrod earned Player of the Week honors after leading the Pirates to a 2-1 record in a daunting three-game week. Sherrod averaged 18.7 points per game, while recording 21 points against UCF.
- UTEP (16-4, 4-1) – The best team in the conference is only four wins away from reaching the 20-win mark. In fact, the Miners may be closer to that number with four of five games against teams with a sub-.500 conference record.
- Memphis (15-4, 4-1) –Despite a sluggish start—a close win over ECU and a loss to SMU – the Tigers have rallied and overcome injury issues by beating three of the conference’s top teams. Although they have yet to win a game in dominating fashion, Memphis doesn’t need to look further than their team free throw percentage to understand why they play in so many close games.
- UAB (13-5, 3-2) –The Blazers roughest stretch began with a narrow, hard-fought loss to Memphis. Now, UAB must take on Marshall (twice), UCF, USM and Tulane in their next five games.
- Southern Miss. (14-5, 3-3) – Following a bad loss to SMU, So. Miss will look to rebound against a surging East Carolina team. Gary Flowers has cemented himself as a first-team All Conference member, averaging 20.6 points and 7.2 rebounds a game.
- Marshall (13-6, 1-3) – The out-of-conference win over WVU helps the team confidence, now they have to top UAB on the road to really prove themselves.
- UCF (14-4, 1-4) –Once a top 30 defensive team, the Knights have given up 74 or more points in three of their four losses this season. So far, the Knights have one conference win with a stretch that doesn’t favor their revival. Their upcoming schedule includes Memphis, UAB and UTEP.
- East Carolina (11-8, 3-2) – Jontae Sherron and Darrius Morrow have provided a spark for a team that appeared to be stuck in the bottom part of the conference only weeks ago.
- Houston (11-7, 3-2) –Before losing to UTEP last weekend, Houston’s three-game win streak was the squad’s longest of the season. They have yet to lose three in a row.
- Tulane (12-6, 2-3) – A few weeks ago, this was the hottest team in conference. Now, with a three game losing streak and games against UTEP and USM looming, the Green Wave appear to be in trouble.
- Tulsa (10-9, 3-2) – The team lacks a point guard currently and it can be shown by the fact they are only averaging 12 team assists a game.
- SMU (11-8, 2-3) – Besides Papa Dia and Robert Nyakundi, the team lacks a true third scoring option and team’s have began to notice this.
- Rice (9-10, 1-4) –By beating a team that was No. 1 in conference standings until January 8, the Owls were able to notch their first conference win of the year and now get back-to-back home games against Houston and SMU. Arsalan Kazemi could take home player of the year honors. The sophomore forward currently averages four offensive rebounds a night.
A Look Ahead
- Struggling UCF Looks to Rebound Against Surging Memphis. Two weeks ago this game appeared to be a match-up that would determine who was No. 1 in conference. With the Knights struggling, Memphis appears to be in charge of the C-USA once again.
- UTEP and UAB Hope To Continue Home Dominance. UTEP and UAB have more in common then their abbreviated names. Both programs are dominating at home this season. The Miners are 12-1 in El Paso, while the Blazers are 9-1 in Birmingham. While the Blazers will be test by Marshall in a game featuring two 13-win teams, the Miners get to extend Tulane’s losing streak to four.
- So. Miss Tries To Get Off The Schnide Against Hot East Carolina. Back-to-back losses to Memphis and SMU have dropped Southern Mississippi to the middle of the pack. However, Gary Flowers and company plan to change that by dropping East Carolina tonight.
- Tulsa and SMU Tangle In Middle Tier Battle. After appearing in the bottom of the conference in the first two weeks, Tulsa and SMU have rebounded to the middle of the Conference USA standings. Furthermore, each team has done it different ways—SMU relying on two or three main scoring threats, while Tulsa has distributed the scoring equally. We’ll see which style wins out tonight.