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Southern Miss another battle for Herd

MU basketball
Jan. 08, 2011 @ 12:15 AM

Southern Miss might be better than UCF.

No disrespect to the UCF Knights, ranked 19th nationally and 14-0, but Southern Miss is at least on the same rung.

That's a concern for Marshall's Thundering Herd, which lost Wednesday at UCF and is back home for a 7 p.m., Saturday, men's basketball clash with Southern Miss in Cam Henderson Center.

"We can't think about that last game," Marshall's Tirrell Baines said Friday. "This is another good team."

Southern Miss (12-2 overall, 1-0 Conference USA) is only 10 points shy of being undefeated with losses at Ole Miss and to Colorado State in the Cancun Governor's Cup, both by five. The Golden Eagles have wins over South Florida, California and St. Louis.

Coach Larry Eustachy's team also won a home game against Savannah State, 64-54. Marshall won at Savannah State, 56-47, and has a return game with the Tigers on Monday.

Although the Golden Eagles are outscoring the Herd 78.9 to 74.9 points a game, Eustachy's teams always play hard-nosed, intense basketball. It could become a real grind-out contest between a pair of defensive-minded, good rebounding teams.

"It's going to be physical," said Baines, who leads Marshall rebounders with a 7.3 average.

UCF edged Marshall, 65-58, in hot, humid UCF Arena behind a supportive crowd of 9,094.

Marshall played in front of a much bigger crowd (21,262) in a loss at Louisville, but it wasn't as loud as the UCF crowd, Baines said.

Plain and simple, Marshall (10-4, 0-1) didn't play well enough to get the job done at UCF, head coach Tom Herrion said. Marshall didn't execute its offense, didn't play a particularly smart game and didn't defend against Marcus Jordan, who scored 26.

"My charge to my team is we've got to play better," Herrion said. "My charge to our fans is we need you, we need a lot of you and we need you to be loud."

Marshall is having a "Youth League Basketball Night" and invited youth league players to attend with their teams or as individuals wearing team shirts to purchase discounted $6 general admission tickets. Youth league players are also invited to shoot layups with the Herd afterward.

The Herd is ranked sixth in C-USA with a home attendance average of 4,778.

UCF has Michael Jordan's son, sophomore guard Marcus Jordan, leading its charge while Southern Miss has senior forward Gary Flowers.

The 6-foot-8 Flowers is an NBA Draft prospect ranked second in C-USA scoring (21.3), seventh in rebounding (7.8), fourth in field goal percentage (53.6), first in 3-point shooting percentage (50.9) and third in blocked shots (1.8).

He had 27 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks Wednesday when the Golden Eagles defeated Houston, 85-73.

But, Southern Miss isn't all about Flowers. They also have senior guard R.L. Horton scoring 12.6 per game, freshman guard D.J. Newbill (8.7) and junior guard Angelo Johnson (7.2 points, 4.7 assists).

Sai'Quon Stone is a senior closing in on 1,000 career points and 6-10 Maurice Bolden averaging 5.2 points after netting 23 against Houston.

"If you're a good team you have a number of players," Herrion said.

Baines, a 6-6 senior forward, is approaching 1,000 career points. He has 982 and averages 12.8 a game.

Junior guard Damier Pitts leads Marshall's scoring (14.8) after playing in only five games. Former leader Dre Kane's average is down to 14.5 after he scored nine in the last two games. Kane, Baines and Pitts all struggled with leg cramps in the UCF game.

It was hot for UCF, too, but Baines said he thought the problem was Marshall is more acclimated to a colder climate.

Herrion said sophomore backup forward Eladio Espinosa was still hospitalized Friday afternoon in Orlando, Fla., but hoped he would be released later in the day. Espinosa was injured during Tuesday's practice at UCF when he took a blow to the throat in a freak collision with the back of teammate Johnny Higgins' head.

Junior forward Johnny Thomas practiced Friday with a broken nose. Thomas returned to practice wearing the protective mask he wore earlier in the season following a similar injury.

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