Marshall (8-15) at Southern Miss (19-3)

The Sports NetworkFebruary 7, 2014 

GAME NOTES: Two squads at opposite ends of the Conference USA standings are set to clash at Reed Green Coliseum on Friday night, as the Southern Miss Golden Eagles host the Marshall Thundering Herd.

Marshall's season has been a struggle from the start, as it has gone just 8-15 overall, which includes a lowly 2-6 record in conference action. The Herd most recently dropped a 65-57 decision at home to Florida Atlantic last Saturday, and now they head back out on the road where they've gone just 1-9.

Meanwhile, USM has shined on the campaign with an outstanding 19-3 ledger, which includes a 9-0 mark on its home floor. The Golden Eagles are currently riding a five-game winning streak, with their latest triumph coming in dominant fashion on Saturday versus Tulane (78-47), to improve to 6-1 in C- USA.

The Herd have a 9-7 advantage over the Golden Eagles in the all-time series, but that includes just a 1-5 mark in Hattiesburg.

The Herd came out flat on their home floor last weekend, as they were outshot from the field by FAU, 53.2 percent to 38.9 percent, on their way to the eight-point loss. They also struggled from 3-point range (6-of-21) and the foul line (9-of-16). Chris Thomas was one of the few bright spots in the setback, scoring 16 points on 7-of-13 from the field. Ryan Taylor added 14 points and TyQuane Goard had eight points and seven boards.

Despite its losing record, Marshall actually boasts a positive scoring margin this season (+1.8). It shoots 44.7 percent from the field for 77.0 ppg, but it is often let down by a porous scoring defense (75.2 ppg). Its dreadful free- throw percentage (.624) doesn't help matters much either. Since Elijah Pittman (21.4 ppg) was suspended indefinitely after just nine games, Kareem Canty has taken over as the leading scorer with 16.3 ppg, albeit on just 38.4 percent field goal shooting. Taylor is a solid piece in the frontcourt with 14.0 ppg and 7.1 rpg, while Thomas brings 11.8 ppg to the table despite his awful free- throw percentage (.569).

The Golden Eagles had one of their most well-rounded contests of the season last weekend in their 31-point victory over Tulane, shooting 48.1 percent from the field, holding the Green Wave to just 38.2 percent shooting and dominating both the rebounding (40-19) and turnover (15-8) battles. Michael Craig tallied a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds, Daveon Boardingham and Chip Armelin scored 11 points apiece and Neil Watson put up 10 points on a perfect 6-of-6 from the foul line.

USM has made a habit of playing excellent on both ends of the floor. It shoots 46.5 percent from the field for 73.5 ppg, and even more impressively it allows just 61.7 ppg on 41.8 percent shooting. Positive rebounding (+8.1) and turnover (+2.5) margins only adds to its impressive resume. While no one scores more than Watson's 12.2 ppg, five players net at least 8.8 ppg. Craig (11.3 ppg, 8.0 rpg) and Boardingham (11.1 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 1.0 bog) are both mainstays in the frontcourt, each shooting an identical 57.6 percent from the field. Watson has made 44 3-pointers at nearly a 40 percent clip and has been nearly automatic from the free-throw line (.946).

With USM soaring this season, especially on its home floor, expect a rather easy victory against a Marshall squad that has fallen flat since the start of conference action.

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