Checking in on… Conference USA

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 18th, 2011

Stephen Coulter is the RTC correspondent for Conference USA.

A Look Back

  • So. Miss Clobbers No. 22 UCF: After a 14-0 start, Central Florida has now lost back-to-back games and fell out of the national rankings after a 86-69 loss to Southern Mississippi. For the Golden Eagles, it was the program’s first win over a ranked opponent since 2004 and the first time at home since 1986. In the second half, USM outscored UCF 50-34 behind a strong performance from R.L. Horton, who scored 18 points and grabbed six rebounds.
  • Houston Nips SMU 70-68: Only days after tripping up preseason favorite Memphis, SMU fell short of Houston on the road. Adam Brown led the Cougars with 22 points. After the win, Houston has now taken four of its last five. Alandise Harris finished with a double-double, dropping 19 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. Darian Thibodeaux scored 17 points. There were nine lead changes the final 12 minutes.
  • Memphis, UTEP and Tulsa Cruise: Saturday brought in a slew of blowout victories for Memphis, UTEP and Tulsa. The Tigers followed up an upsetting road defeat to SMU with a big win at home over surging Marshall. The Herd went into the game winning nine of their last eleven and walked away with a 77-61 spanking. Meanwhile, UTEP handled Rice 66-43 at home, notching their 12th straight home victory. Tulsa knocked off UAB 78-62, beating the Blazers 43-34 in the second half.
  • Stone Breaks Conference Assist Record: UTEP senior PG Julyan Stone broke the Conference USA assist record last Saturday after he recorded five assists in UTEP’s win over Rice. Stone has 633 assists for his career, passing USF’s Reggie Kohn as the career assist leader in the conference. Stone finished with ten rebounds and four points in the game.
  • Shawn Williams Transferring To SMU: Dallas-native and one-time Texas Longhorn Shawn Williams announced last week that he was transferring to SMU. On January 11, Williams enrolled in classes, but will have to sit out until next fall. He will have three years of eligibility remaining when he returns. Williams left the Longhorns in November, playing in eight games before suffering an ankle injury. He didn’t play in any games this season.
  • Memphis Fills in Holes With New Faces: Don’t look now, but Memphis seems to have found some stability after weeks of upheaval that included injuries, transfers and inconsistent play on the court. Senior forward Will Coleman finished with a double-double in Saturday’s win over Marshall. Coleman scored 19 points while grabbing 11 rebounds. In addition to Coleman’s emergence, the Tigers bench torched Marshall, scoring 30 of the team’s 77 points. Tarik Black notched 12 points and nine rebounds, while junior transfer Charles Carmouche added 15 points.
  • East Carolina Cruising At Home. The Pirates are 7-1 at home this season following their 76-67 win over Tulane last Saturday. Jontae Sherrod had a huge day for ECU, scoring 24 points. For the Green Wave, Kendall Timmons barely reached 10 points, however he did finish in double digits for the 15th consecutive game.

Power Rankings

  1. UTEP (15-4, 3-1) – It’s hard to pick a top dog in the conference with team’s losing all around the conference. However, UTEP is the conference’s first 15-win club and have won 12 of their last 14. In addition, their only loss is a triple overtime defeat at UAB. Also, senior guard Randy Culpepper, who was just named conference player of the week once again, is averaging more than 19 points a game.
  2. Southern Miss (14-3, 3-1) – The Golden Eagles get another opportunity to prove itself this week when they host Memphis at the Reed Green Coliseum. USM prides itself on crashing the glass, averaging 40.5 team rebounds a game, which is 24th in the nation. A blowout loss to Marshall and an overtime win over Rice keeps them out of the No. 1 spot for now.
  3. Memphis (13-4, 2-1) – After a bad road loss to SMU, the Tigers rebounded with a big win over Marshall. Their next three conference games are at USM, at UAB and at home against Central Florida. Combined record of those opponents: 43-9.
  4. Central Florida (14-2, 1-2) – Two bad losses drop UCF from the top spot. Right now, it needs to regain control of the season with a pair of easy home games this week against ECU and Rice. Marcus Jordan and Keith Clanton give this team stability on both sides of the court.
  5. UAB (11-4, 1-1) – Three games this week present quite the challenge for the Blazers, who are coming off a bad loss at Tulsa. UAB needs to shore up its defense if it wants to be successful; the Blazers have given up 75 or more points in the last three games.
  6. Tulane (12-5, 2-2). After winning six in a row, Tulane struggled last week losing a pair of games. They have a mid-week bye and then play Tulsa at home on Saturday. Maybe the time off will help.
  7. Marshall (12-5, 1-2). Freshman DeAndre Kane is making a blantant case for Freshman of the Year after a dynamic week for the Herd last week. Kane is currently second in the team in scoring and first in assists. Everybody else needs to step up in order for Marshall to hit the 20-win mark.
  8. Houston (10-6, 2-1). A pair of close wins has kept Houston in good position early in conference play. The team is still, but freshman Alandise Harris is developing into a strong player for the Cougars. Harris had 33 points in the two wins last week.
  9. Tulsa (9-8, 2-1) – Although they fell in out of conference play to Arizona State, the Golden Hurricane made a statement last Saturday beating UAB handily at home. Senior Justin Hurtt will be a conference first teamer without a doubt.
  10. Southern Methodist (10-7, 1-2) – The program scored an epic-sized win when they topped Memphis, however, the Mustangs came up short at home against Houston and now must take on UAB and UM this week. Papa Dia is averaging 17.6 points and 8.8 rebounds.
  11. East Carolina (9-7, 1-1) – Senior Jontae Sherrod has been a consistent scorer for the Pirates this season, hitting a season-high mark in last week’s win over Tulane when he finished with 24 points.
  12. Rice (8-10, 0-4) – The Owls offense did not show up against UTEP and the team paid the price. Ironically enough, the worst loss of the season followed the best loss of the season—an overtime defeat at the hands of a hot Southern Miss team. Sophomore Arsalan Kazemi has been carrying this team on his back the last month.

A Look Ahead

  • Marshall duels with WVU in Chesapeake Energy Classic. The Thundering Herd will be heading up to Charleston, W.V., on Wednesday night to take on the West Virginia Mountaineers in the Chesapeake Energy Classic. The in-state rivals both need a win to regain momentum at this crucial part of the season.
  • Memphis travels to USM for Matchup of Conference Heavyweights. The current No. 2 and No. 3 teams in the power rankings take the same court this week when Memphis travels to Southern Miss on Wednesday night. Both teams have one loss in C-USA play, however the Golden Eagles have the better conference record at 3-1. Gary Flowers versus Will Coleman makes for an intriguing storyline.
  • Struggling UCF Takes On Bottom-Dwellers. The Knights of Central Florida are 1-2 in conference and 13-0 in out of conference play. They will have an attempt to boost that conference record when they take on East Carolina and Rice this week.  The Pirates and the Owls have struggled this season, especially on the road, and are two of just three teams in the conference that have failed to reach the ten win mark.
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Checking in on… Conference USA

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 15th, 2010

Stephen Coulter is the RTC correspondent for Conference USA.

A Look Back

  • Tiger Attrition: Since the Tigers lost to Kansas last week, Josh Pastner has had to deal with a slew of personnel matters. Forward Wesley Witherspoon underwent surgery for a right knee cartilage tear on Friday and will be sidelined for the next five weeks of the season. Witherspoon is currently the team’s leading scorer and has begun rehabilitation already. The coaching staff hopes to have him back in time for the Tigers’ game against Marshall on January 15. He suffered the injury on November 17 against Northwestern State, but continued to play despite the pain.  Junior forward Angel Garcia is transferring from Memphis at the end of this semester to pursue a career in Spain. Garcia, who averaged 6.1 points for the Tigers, plans to finish his final exams and then will sign a professional contract in Spain. In a press conference, the 6’11 Garcia claimed he is making the decision so he can help his family financially.  Finally, sophomore forward D.J. Stephens will miss the next two games for the Tigers because of a groin injury. Without Garcia, Stephens and Witherspoon, the Tigers are down to nine active players for their Thursday game against Austin Peay.
  • Brock Young Moves to No. 6 on ECU’s Assist List: Old Dominion ended East Carolina’s five-game win streak last week when they beat the Pirates 81-68 last Tuesday. Although the Pirates drop to 7-3 overall, the team’s point guard Brock Young kept things upbeat by moving into sixth place on the conference’s career assists list.
  • Cougs Drop First Home Game: Maurice McNeil’s career-high 26-point performance wasn’t enough to help Houston protect its perfect home record as the Cougars were beaten 68-63 by Texas-San Antonio last Saturday. The loss was UH’s first at Hofheinz Pavilion this season and ended an eight-game home winning streak that had started late last season.
  • Marshall Makes a Run: With four players reaching the double-digit plateau, Marshall was able to keep its winning streak alive and earn its best win of the season over James Madison (7-3). The two clubs will play again when the Thundering Herd travels to take on the Dukes on December 22.
  • Flowers Knocks off Cal with Game-Winner: Gary Flowers is garnering Player of the Year consideration after scoring the final 12 points in Southern Mississippi’s big win over California on Sunday. The biggest basket was a turnaround jumper with three seconds left that lifted the Golden Eagles past the Golden Bears 80-78. Flowers finished with 28 points and currently leads the team with 21.7 points per game. The senior is currently pacing the conference in scoring.
  • Knights Remain Unbeaten: Central Florida is one of 14 teams in Division-I to have an unblemished record going into Tuesday’s action. The Knights stayed unbeaten last week when they beat Bethune-Cookman 76-59. Sophomore Keith Clanton led the team with 16 points and eight rebounds, while senior Tom Herzog dropped 14 and finished with eight blocks, tying school record. In the Knights’ previous win against Southeastern Louisiana, Clanton had eight swats.

Power Rankings

  1. Memphis (7-1): Despite a plethora of injuries and their first loss of the season, the Tigers remain atop this conference. Will Barton is going to need to step up in the weeks to come.
  2. Central Florida (8-0): The last unbeaten in the conference, while several one and two-loss teams rank ahead of them in KenPom. The Knights have played solid defense so far this season, limiting their opponents to 61 points or fewer in all eight of their games. An upcoming game against Miami will be a good test.
  3. Southern Mississippi (7-1): The top rebounding team in the nation currently averages over 45 boards per game this season. Gary Flowers is dominating at the moment and could be named conference player of the year.
  4. UAB (7-2): With the week off due to exams, the Blazers are looking to build off of a solid non-conference performance thus far. They are winners of five of their last six.
  5. Marshall (6-2): The fab four—DeAndre Kane, Tirrell Baines, Shaquille Johnson and Dago Pena—have been outstanding for the Herd so far, averaging over 52 points combined this season. Marshall looks to add to their three-game win streak with a set of very winnable games.
  6. UTEP (6-2): The Miners returned from their break to pummel Arkansas Pine-Bluff 77-54 on Sunday. The team looks to win its fourth consecutive game Wednesday when they host Louisiana-Monroe. A battle with Texas Tech on Saturday is not to be overlooked.
  7. East Carolina (7-3): The team is currently on break because of exams, but when the Pirates return on Saturday, they will play an 8-2 Coastal Carolina club that has won six in a row, including an overtime win against LSU.
  8. Tulane (5-2): Kris Richard and Kendall Timmons look to spark the Green Wave against New Orleans and VCU after a week off. The duo is currently averaging 29.3 points per game combined.
  9. Houston (6-4): All of Houston’s losses have come against teams with winning records. Luckily for the Cougars, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi is 3-6. Senior Maurice McNeil is 36th in the country in fouls drawn per 40 minutes, but is shooting just 54.5% from the stripe. The Cougars’ search for life after Aubrey Coleman and Kelvin Lewis is still a work in progress.
  10. SMU (5-4): The Mustangs return to play on Saturday after a two-week break for exams. Papa Dia’s 17.3 points per game and 7.6 rebounds per game make him a prime candidate for All-Conference first team honors. The Mustangs have a mediocre record and have eight teams on their schedule who are either ranked below 300 in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings or are in D-II. There isn’t much to get excited about in Dallas.
  11. Rice (4-4): The Owls have been on break since they barely beat Lamar on December 4. Arsalan Kazemi’s 15.8 points and 10.6 rebounds a game have kept this team afloat early on. Sadly, tougher competition looms as the Owls take on Miami, Oral Roberts, LSU and TCU before conference play begins on January 5.
  12. Tulsa (4-5): Three straight losses for the Golden Hurricane after the team dropped a double OT thriller to Princeton on Sunday, but the schedule hasn’t been bad. Justin Hurtt keeps on fighting the good fight.

A Look Ahead:

While the action tapers off this week, keep an eye on how Memphis adjusts to their suddenly short bench. Three games to watch Saturday:

  • Miami at UCF
  • Texas Tech at UTEP
  • Tulane at VCU
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Checking in on… Conference USA

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 29th, 2010

Steve Coulter is the RTC correspondent for Conference USA.

A Look Back

  • Culpepper Ends Starting Streak: Once named the Conference USA Sixth Man of the Year, senior UTEP guard Randy Culpepper returned to the bench last weekend, snapping a streak of 40 games started in a row. The Preseason Player of the Year dropped 24 points coming off the bench and ultimately lead the Miners to a 65-56 win over Michigan.
  • ECU’s Young Reaches 500-assist Plateau: Senior guard Brock Young became the seventh player in conference history to reach 500 career assists during the Pirates’ 81-53 win over UNC Greensboro. Despite a slow start and limited playing time, Young was able to reach the milestone only seven games into the Pirates schedule.
  • UAB Tops Arkansas in OT: Senior guard Jamarr Sanders led the way with 19 points, while all five starters scored in double digits for UAB as they ousted Arkansas 70-65 in overtime. Sophomore Ovie Soko finished with 17 points, but the most impressive performance came from sophomore Cameron Moore, who ended up with his third double-double. Moore scored 14 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.
  • Rice keeps it close with #20 Texas: Texas guard Cory Joseph’s layup with 37 seconds left lifted the Longhorns over the Owls. Despite beginning the second half trailing 23-20, Texas walked away with a 62-59 win after making nine three-pointers in the second half. The Owls (3-3) were led by Arsalan Kazemi, who finished with 13 points and has scored in double digits every game this season.
  • UTEP Splits in Atlantic City: After a win over New Mexico State on Tuesday, UTEP split a pair of games in the Legends Classic this past weekend. On Friday, the Miners were beaten by Georgia Tech 71-61, but rebounded with a 65-56 win over Michigan. The Miners finished third in the tournament.
  • Clarkson Remains hot, Tulsa Rolls Past Stanford: After being named C-USA Freshman of the Week, Tulsa guard Jordan Clarkson scored a career-high 20 points to lead Tulsa to a 66-53 win over Stanford. The day before, the Golden Hurricanes were dropped by UNLV, 80-71. Against the Rebels, Clarkson was limited to just nine points.
  • Houston Loses In-State Battle With TCU: Houston couldn’t win its first road game against in-state foe TCU. Ronnie Moss and Garlon Green led the Horned Frogs (4-2) with 17 and 16 points, respectively.  After winning their previous two games at home, the Cougars couldn’t overcome 19 turnovers and ended up losing 79-63.

Caught On Film

Marcus Jordan Dunking like Dad: Despite being in only his second season at Central FloridaMarcus Jordan has begun to compile a highlight reel. On Tuesday night, the guard intercepted an inbound pass from Stetson sophomore Ridge Graham and dunked over the dazed Graham. The result was Jordan ending up at #7 on SportsCenter next day as seen in the highlight below.

The Knights went on to win the contest 85-48, then obliterated Alabama State 84-48 on Saturday. Jordan scored 18 points in that contest and has scored in double figures in all five games this season. He leads the 5-0 Knights, averaging 16.8 points per game. Older brother Jeff sits on the bench this season after transferring from Illinois last year.

Power Rankings

  1. Memphis (5-0): The conference’s only ranked team also is in the top ten among scoring offenses in the nation. Everything seems to be running smoothly for the Tigers following the departure of Jelan Kendrick. Freshmen Will Barton and Joe Jackson are combining for 23 points a game, while junior Will Witherspoon is having a big season, scoring 15.4 points and 5.6 rebounds a contest. The team is a week away from taking on #4 Kansas in Madison Square Garden.
  2. Central Florida (5-0): The Knights have been absolutely dominant thus far, earning small wins over Stetson and Alabama State this past week. Currently, UCF is #12 in the nation in points per game and is shooting over 55% from the field. Limiting their last four opponents to fewer than 60 points has helped the quick start.
  3. Southern Mississippi (4-0): Winless Alcorn State looms for the Golden Eagles as the number three rebounding team in the nation looks to get to 5-0 before next weekend’s matchup vs. Ole Miss. Freshman guard D.J. Newbill has come on strong, recording two double-doubles so far this season. Meanwhile, seniors Josimar Ayarza and Gary Flowers have provided stability.
  4. UAB (4-1): The Blazers make a strong case to be inside the conference’s top four teams. Apart from a three-point loss to Arizona State, the Blazers are perfect and utilizing all team members. In their win over Arkansas, all five starters scored in double digits. Also, Aaron Johnson continues to shine, averaging 9.6 assists per contest.
  5. UTEP (4-2): The move of benching Culpepper paid dividends last weekend, but it is unseen whether or not head coach Tim Floyd is going to keep his superstar from the starting lineup. Senior Jeremy Williams grabbed ten rebounds against the Wolverines. He is currently second on the team, averaging 6.3 boards a game.
  6. Houston (4-2): Big performances off the bench helped the Cougars stay in their last game against TCU, but the starting lineup will need to play better if Houston plans on having the same success as they did last year. Tuesday night they will travel to LSU to continue their tough out of conference schedule. Senior guard Adam Brown is shooting over 50 percent from the three-point line and is averaging 15.5 points per game.
  7. Marshall (3-2): Tough loss to Louisville (4-0), but it is important to note that the Thundering Herd led 34-33 at halftime only to be outscored by 15 in the second half. DeAndre Kane finished with a career-high 25 points, averaging a little less than 14 per game. The biggest problem for Marshall right now: turnovers. Six giveaways in the first couple of minutes in the second half allowed Louisville to take over and never look back.
  8. Tulsa (4-2): With a trio of scorers in Justin Hurtt, Steven Idlet and Jordan Clarkson, the Golden Hurricane looks to be a spoiler team come conference play. Wins over Oral Roberts and Stanford have helped.
  9. East Carolina (5-2): Five weak wins for the Pirates, which means they still remain in the bottom tier of the conference. Senior guard Jontae Sherrod scored 17 off the bench. He currently leads the team in scoring and has scored in double-digits in three consecutive games.
  10. SMU (4-3): The Mustangs are one of the worst rebounding teams in the nation, despite the inside presence of Papa Dia who is averaging 15.3 points a game and 8.3 rebounds per contest. Dia’s double-double against Central Arkansas helped the Mustangs hold on for their fourth victory. With a three-game winning streak, SMU travels to Louisiana Tech, then return home to host Grambling.
  11. Rice (3-3): Despite never trailing by more than five points in the second half against Texas, this is a team that can comfortably set up shop in the bottom tier of the standings. It only gets tougher for the Owls as they travel to take on Arizona on Wednesday.
  12. Tulane (3-2): Getting dropped by Nicholls State (2-2) for the first time in 19 meetings didn’t help the Green Wave get out of the conference’s cellar.  On the bright side, the scoring duo of Kris Richard and Kendall Timmons is averaging over 30 points per game and gives Tulane reason to be confident as the season progresses.

A Look Ahead

  • Central Florida Gets a Shot Against The Gators: The Knights have an early season test this week when they host on in-state foe Florida. So far, UCF is 5-0 with small victories. The Gators (5-1) are a ranked #18 currently and are coming off a big road win against Florida State. Besides an early win over South Florida, this is the first quality game UCF will play this season.
  • UAB Hits the Road: On Friday, UAB will travel to Athens., to take on Georgia, which will be the second SEC team the Blazers have faced in as many weeks. Last Saturday, the Blazers took on Arkansas in a neutral location and walked away with the upset victory. After the game against the Bulldogs, UAB’s schedule gets a little easier until they have to travel to take on top-ranked Duke on January 5.
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