Around C-USA: January 6-12
CHARLOTTE (6-7, 1-1): Coming off their 10-point loss at Indiana, the 49ers hooked up with another top 25 team on Wednesday when they hosted Louisville in the team's first C-USA game this season. Even though freshman forward CURTIS WITHERS had a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds, Charlotte shot themselves in the foot with their 2-18 three-point shooting display in an 80-59 loss. The Niners returned to their home on Saturday when they hosted East Carolina. Led by junior guard DEMON BROWN's 21 points coupled with a 49-point first half, Charlotte tamed the Pirates 83-62 to end their four-game losing streak. Charlotte's brutal schedule doesn't lighten up this week with games at National Division front-runner UAB along with a home game against Marquette.
CINCINNATI (9-3, 2-0): In the Bearcats conference opener Wednesday against DePaul, coach BOB HUGGINS, who was sick with the flu, had a calm demeanor sitting on the bench, in a stark contrast of his normal standing, screaming self. Senior guard TARON BARKER let his game do the shouting with a 9 point, 6 assist effort as UC, with their pressuring and trapping defense, never trailed in the 64-56 victory. On Saturday, the Bearcats traveled to Fort Worth to take on TCU in a nationally televised contest. Coming out in the flashy red uniforms, Cincinnati had three 20-point scorers, but only 17 bench points, as they slipped past the Horned Frogs 83-72. This week, the grind of the conference schedule starts with a trip to Saint Louis on Wednesday, followed by a Saturday home contest with Tulane.
DEPAUL (8-4, 0-1): The Blue Demons took a trip to the always-tough Shoemaker Center in Cincinnati for a game against the Bearcats on Wednesday. Senior forward SAM HOSKIN put in an impressive game-high 22 points, but no other Blue Demon reached double figures in the 64-56 loss. First-year head coach DAVE LEITAO continued the inherited curse of the rivalry, one in which DePaul has won 1 of the last 24 meetings, including the last seven. The Blue Demons returned to the comforts of home on Saturday as the took on UNLV of the Mountain West Conference in the Allstate Arena. Unfortunately, the Rebels handed them their first home loss of the season by hitting six free throws in the final minute to secure a 75-70 win. This week, the Demons have some chances to redeem themselves with home games against TCU and East Carolina.
EAST CAROLINA (10-3, 1-1): With nine days off from their previous game against UNC Pembroke, the Pirates went on the road last Saturday for a game against Charlotte. Despite having double figures in scoring from 4 players, ECU suffered their second home loss of the season in an 83-62 loss in which the team recorded zero steals. However, home is where the heart is, especially in Greenville, where this Thursday night, in an ESPN2-televised game at Minges Coliseum, the Pirates host conference rival Louisville in a match-up of two of the best big-men in the league with ECU's MOUSSA BADIANE going up against UofL's MARVIN STONE.
LOUISVILLE (10-1, 2-0): The Cardinals kicked off their conference season in an exploding manner on Wednesday evening against Charlotte. Behind junior forward LUKE WHITEHEAD's 15 points and career-high 8 assists, coupled with an incredible 14-29 shooting from behind the arc (the most ever made by an opponent in Halton Arena), Louisville gained their biggest win over the 49ers in 8 seasons with an 80-59 rout. On Saturday, the Cards came out sluggish in the first half against Saint Louis at home, trailing by 2 at the intermission. But the Cardinals, in common fashion, turned up the tempo in the second half as UofL blew out the Billikens, 73-54. This week, the Cards have a tough road game against East Carolina along with a Saturday home game against TCU.
MARQUETTE (10-3, 2-1): On Tuesday, the Golden Eagles made the trip to Saint Louis to play their second conference game of the year. Despite junior guard DWYANE WADE leaving the game in the second half with bruised ribs, junior forward SCOTT MERRITT rallied the Eagles with 14 points and 11 rebounds (5 on the offensive end) in a 60-54 survival. With Wade back on Saturday, MU had a complete game at home against National Division nemesis South Florida, playing short-handed. The Golden Eagles led by as many as 37 points, and also set a school record for most points in a conference game with a 96-63 thrashing of the Bulls. This week, Marquette has two tough road games at Tulane and Charlotte before returning home on January 25.
SAINT LOUIS (6-7, 0-2): The Bills started their Conference USA season
by playing two of the American Division favorites. First, on Tuesday at home
against Marquette, senior guard MARQUE PERRY, who averages 35 minutes a game,
scored 20 points to go with his 6 rebounds and 5 assists, but it wasn't enough
as the Golden Eagles out-rebounded the Billikens 33-13 (including 13-4 on the
offensive glass) and won 60-54. On Saturday, SLU took their game into Louisville
for an afternoon showdown. With their ball-control style, Saint Louis was able
to hold a 26-24 lead at halftime. But in the second half, the Bills got out of
their game and in panic, tried to run with the Cardinals, which didn't work in
the 73-54 loss. Perry was held to only 7 points, well below his season average.
The schedule doesn't get much better for SLU this week with games at home
against Cincinnati and at Houston.
ALABAMA-BIRMINGHAM (10-3, 2-0): Coming off a tough non-conference loss against Mississippi State, the Blazers started C-USA play on Wednesday night when they traveled down to Tampa to face South Florida. Junior guard MORRIS FINLEY had 28 points while shooting 6 of 7 from downtown as UAB overcame a 34% shooting performance in the first half with a solid 79-69 win. The Blazers made another trip on Saturday, this time to take on a struggling Houston team. Behind freshman guard RICHARD JONES's career-high 14 points in 19 minutes, the Blazers won handily 63-50. This week, UAB returns home for games against Charlotte and Southern Miss.
HOUSTON (2-10, 0-1): On Wednesday, Houston completed their non-conference schedule with a road game against the Tigers of Louisiana State in Baton Rouge. Shooting only 36% from the field for the game, the Cougars became the 44th straight non-conference team to come out of the Pete Maravich Assembly Center with an 80-51 loss. However, Houston did outbound the Tigers by 11 in the game. On Saturday, UH hosted UAB in the team's first conference game this season. Committing 21 turnovers in the game, LOUIS TRUSCOTT's 14 point, 18 rebound game wasn't enough for the Cougars, who lost 63-50 to the Blazers in front of nearly 3,700 fans in Hofheinz Pavilion. This week, Houston has some time to rest before hosting Saint Louis on Saturday.
MEMPHIS (10-3, 1-1): After gaining a big win for the conference last Sunday against Villanova, the Tigers opened C-USA play on Tuesday in the Pyramid against Tulane. Senior forward CHRIS MASSIE, continuing his pursuit of lost time, had another impressive 34-point, 16-rebound performance as Memphis won 85-73. Tulane coach SHAWN FINNEY called Massie "a man among boys" in his post-game press conference. The Tigers looked to take their momentum into Hattiesburg on Saturday as they took on Southern Miss. However, the Tigers couldn't stop a huge 2nd half effort by the Eagles and their 6-game winning streak was snapped in an 84-67 loss. The Tigers have some time off with no early game this week. They host South Florida on Saturday.
SOUTH FLORIDA (7-6, 0-2): The Bulls, coming off a tough loss at Colorado State, started league play on Wednesday night when they hosted National Division favorite UAB. Sophomore forward TERRENCE LEATHER had a double-double performance, but USF couldn't stop a late run by the Blazers and fell 79-69. On Saturday, the Bulls roamed into Milwaukee to take on Marquette on Al McGuire Court. In a rough game as the Bulls dressed 10 healthy players but finished with 5, the Eagles won easily 96-63. The Bulls had 2 injuries and three players foul out in the game. Leather played the last five minutes with 4 fouls. This week, the schedule gets even heavier for USF as they host Southern Miss on Tuesday and travel to Memphis on Saturday.
SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI (9-4, 2-0): On Wednesday, the Golden Eagles welcomed C-USA play to Hattiesburg as they hosted TCU. Led by freshman guard JASPER JOHNSON and his 22 points, USM used a 19-2 run early in the second half to put away the Horned Frogs with a 72-64 final score. On Saturday, the Tigers of Memphis came to town for a chance to lead the National Division. Down by six points at the break, Southern Miss rattled off a season high 55 second half points as they tamed the Tigers, 84-67. This week, USM has two tough road games against South Florida and Alabama-Birmingham.
TEXAS CHRISTIAN (6-7, 0-2): The Horned Frogs opened conference play on Wednesday against Southern Miss in Hattiesburg. Senior guard JUNIOR BLOUNT had 21 points and 5 rebounds, but TCU committed 18 turnovers and lost 72-64. On Saturday, the Frogs hosted Cincinnati in the Daniel-Meyer Coliseum. Senior forward JAMAL BROWN had 8 points to go with his 11 rebounds, but TCU could only manage to shoot 41% from the field in the second half and lost 83-72. This week, the Frogs have 2 tough interdivisional road games against DePaul and Louisville.
(7-7, 0-1): In the Green Wave's only game of the week, Tulane traveled to
Memphis on Tuesday. Despite having four players in double figures scoring, the
Wave couldn't overcome a 27-7 Memphis run in the final 6 minutes of the first
half. Tulane was also out-rebounded 52-29 for the contest in an 85-73 loss. As
is expected, Tulane's schedule doesn't get any easier this week with games
against Marquette and at Cincinnati, two of the American Division's finest.
PATRICK CRUSH'S FIVE-STAR GAMES OF THE WEEK
FIVE STARS: Louisville (10-1, 2-0) vs. East Carolina (10-3, 1-1) (Thursday, 9:00 PM)
STARS: Southern Mississippi (9-4, 2-0) vs. Alabama-Birmingham (10-3, 2-0)
(Saturday, 2:00 PM)
STARS: Cincinnati (9-3, 2-0) vs. Saint Louis (6-7, 0-2) (Wednesday, 7:00 PM)
STARS: Marquette (10-3, 2-1) vs. Tulane (7-7, 0-1) (Tuesday, 8:00 PM)
ONE STAR: Texas Christian (6-7, 0-2) vs. DePaul (8-4, 0-1) (Tuesday, 8:30 PM)