GAME NOTES: After losing two straight games for the first time all season long, the Southern Miss Golden Eagles finally got back in the win column Thursday night, and will try to keep it rolling as they host the Texas-El Paso Miners in a Conference USA tilt at Reed Green Coliseum.
UTEP has won two straight games, and 10 of its last 11 altogether. The Miners are coming off a 72-54 defeat of Tulane Thursday night, and are currently tied with Middle Tennessee for the top spot in the conference standings at 10-2.
Southern Miss once held that distinction, but with two straight losses the Golden Eagles slipped to 9-3 in C-USA play. They got back on track with an 85-56 trouncing of Texas-San Antonio Thursday night.
UTEP leads the all-time series between the two programs, 12-7. This is the first and only time during this regular season these teams will meet on the hardwood.
UTEP was able to pull away from Tulane in the second half of Thursday night's Conference USA victory, thanks to 18 second-half points from John Bohannon, who netted a team-high 20 points in the contest. The victory pushed the Miners to 20 wins on the season for the first time in three years. Bohannon connected on 8-of-10 shooting from the floor, adding two blocked shots and three rebounds to his stat total. Vince Hunter chipped in 12 points with seven rebounds, and C.J. Cooper added 12 of his own with a team-high six assists. The Miners connected on 56.3 percent of their shot attempts in the game.
The Miners have grabbed a share of the top spot in the conference even without leading scorer McKenzie Moore (13.1 ppg), who has been out since early January due to legal complications. Julian Washburn is the team's next leading scorer at 13.0 ppg on 43.2 percent shooting from the floor, while Hunter trails at 12.4 ppg. Bohannon is next in scoring at 11.6 ppg with a team-leading 8.2 rpg average. Cooper tops the squad with 76 assists on the year.
Southern Miss either dangled hope in front of Tulane during the first half of the Golden Eagles' last game, or the team was inspired by the greatest halftime speech ever. The Eagles turned a two-point halftime lead into a 29- point advantage by the end of the game. Daveon Boardingham led Southern Miss with 19 points in the game, while Aaron Brown chipped in 15 and Jerrold Brooks added 13. Matt Bingaya came off the bench to score 12 points with seven rebounds before he fouled out.
Neil Watson, who netted nine points with a team-high seven assists in the win Thursday, leads the team in scoring with 11.7 ppg and 110 assists on the year. Michael Craig is next at 11.5 ppg, shooting 58.8 percent from the field. His 7.5 rpg mark is a team best this season. Boardingham is third with 10.7 ppg and a team-high 29 blocked shots.
Both the Miners and Golden Eagles pride themselves on playing tight defense and getting consistent scoring from reliable stars and key role players. This is going to be one of the most intriguing matchups in Conference USA this season, and Southern Miss' perfect home record will be tested.
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