El Paso, TX — Southern Miss is 12-0 at home, 6-0 in Conference USA games. UTEP is 5-0 in league road games. Something has to give when the Miners (20-7, 10-2 C-USA) and the Golden Eagles (22-5, 9-3 C-USA) square off on Saturday in Hattiesburg.
The game will be nationally televised on CBS Sports Network beginning at 4 p.m. MT.
The Miners have won seven consecutive conference road games dating back to last season, tying the school standard set by the 2009-10 squad. They’ll try to break the mark when Tim Floyd returns to his hometown.
“I dealt with that [going home] a long time ago,” Floyd said. “My mother and father both passed. My friends are Southern Miss fans. So it doesn’t mean much to me. It really doesn’t. It meant a lot the first couple of times because of my father’s history there and my love for the school. But after a while, you understand who pays the checks and that’s where your allegiance lies.”
Floyd’s late father, Lee, coached the Golden Eagles for 14 seasons (1949-54 and 1962-71) and is the second-winningest coach in school history with 246 victories. Floyd spent two seasons as a walk-on at Southern Miss before finishing his collegiate playing career at Louisiana Tech.
Southern Miss snapped a two-game losing streak by whipping UTSA, 85-56, on Thursday at Reed Green Coliseum. Prior to dropping two in a row, the Golden Eagles had won seven consecutive games and 12 of 13.
“They have done a remarkable job,” Floyd said. “They’re undefeated at home, which tells you enough about the issues and the problems that we’re going to face. They are a very good defensive team with seasoned, savvy veteran guards. Their bigs play way beyond their size. Their activity and toughness is their trademark. It will be the most physical team we have played against going back to the Kansas game [in late November].”
Southern Miss’ top four scorers are all seniors -- guard Neil Watson (11.7 ppg), swingman Michael Craig (11.5 ppg), forward Daveon Boardingham (10.7 ppg) and guard Jerrold Brooks (9.7 ppg). Craig is day-to-day with an ankle injury.
With Craig out, Boardingham stepped up and scored 19 points in Thursday's rout of UTSA. He was 9-for-12 from the field. Junior forward Aaron Brown, a Temple transfer, added 15 points. Southern Miss outscored UTSA 50-14 in the paint.
The Golden Eagles lead C-USA in scoring defense (62.9 ppg), just ahead of UTEP (63.4 ppg). Southern Miss is second in scoring margin (+10.0 ppg), field goal percentage (.467), rebound margin (+6.6 rpg), assists (14.3 apg) and steals (8.5 spg), and third in turnover margin (+2.59).
Watson leads the league in free throw percentage (.932), and rates second in assist/turnover ratio (2.24). Boardingham is third in field goal percentage (.593).
The Golden Eagles rank 14th nationally in steals and 19th in rebound margin. Watson is fourth in the NCAA in free throw percentage.
Southern Miss has good depth with nine players averaging at least 11 minutes per game. The Golden Eagles have had the advantage in bench scoring in nine of the last 10 games.