Junior Rasham Suarez dribbles the ball pass the UAB defense in last Saturday’s home game. The Golden Eagles take on Rice this week in Houston. -Susan Broadbirdge/Printz
Southern Miss (5-11, 0-4 C-USA) is riding a seven-game losing streak going into tonight’s contest against Rice (5-11, 2-3 C-USA). They are playing for the first time since receiving a self-imposed postseason ban.
The Golden Eagles travel to Houston, Texas, in hopes to snatch their first conference win after the Owls won in overtime over the Charlotte 49ers Jan. 17.
Southern Miss currently sits in 13th out of 14th place in Conference USA and will need to bounce back quickly if they hope to salvage their season. The Owls are struggling similarly to USM and could be the opponent that lands USM its first conference win.
USM’s point of emphasis this week should be to lock down sophomore guard Marcus Jackson and senior forward Seth Gearhart, both of whom lead the Owls in scoring with 14.6 and 13.6 points per game, respectively. The duo are also deadly from the free throw line and live off of driving to the goal to create easy points in the paint and easy free throws.
Jackson and Gearhart also shoot effectively from the three-point line, shooting 40 and 38 percent, respectively, as well as both shooting above 80 percent from the free throw line. However, past Jackson and Gearhart, the scoring prowess grows thin.
Next up would be junior guard Max Guercy, who only averages 8.8 points per game as well as shooting abysmally from the field, (30 percent). For the Golden Eagles, they will need to continue to lean on the efforts of Matt Bingaya.
Bingaya leads the Golden Eagles in nearly every statistical category and has been the most reliable scoring threat for USM.
The Owls do have one significant advantage, however; they have superior length and more depth than the Golden Eagles. Sophomore Andrew Drone comes off the bench for the Owls and provides a major force in the paint at six feet, 10 inches. Drone will easily tower over the Golden Eagles.
The Golden Eagles could then counter, going small and stretch the floor against the superior length and turn the game into a fast pace type of game which should benefit their isolation type of game.
The Golden Eagles might have the key player to return them to conference prominence. Shadell Millinghaus is now back on the team after an early season departure. He was a major piece for Southern Miss before his absence and will provide some energy early in the game.
The blueprint is simple for the Golden Eagles this game. Shut down Jackson and Gearhart on defense and then weather the storm when their bench players come onto the court.
Then finally, go small and run the floor. They need to create space with speed and play their game and force the bigger wing players for Rice to move their feet when guarding and try to get to the free throw line.
This will be the only meeting with the Owls and getting this one against them will be big going forward as the Golden Eagles have 13 games remaining, all conference games.
Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.