Ivan Pierre Aguirre-USA TODAY Sports
The Southern Miss Golden Eagles (5-9, 0-3 C-USA) will look to capture their first conference win tonight when they host Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (9-7, 2-1 C-USA) at Reed-Green Coliseum.
The Golden Eagles look to bounce back from a 34-point road loss at UTEP and are riding a six-game losing streak going into Thursday.
Leading scorers Matt Bingaya and Chip Armelin look to help an offense which hasn’t topped 70 points in a game all season, leading to a 318th ranked offense in terms of points per game. The offense seems selfish, only averaging 11.6 assists a game.
Without the proper ball movement in the offense, the Golden Eagles struggle to get buckets consistently through the isolation-heavy offense.
Since the early season departures of Dallas Anglin and Shadell Millinghaus, who combined for 16.4 PPG, the Golden Eagles have struggled to replace their production.
With the roster already being thin, having just nine scholarship players, the Golden Eagles rotation must look to generate points and provide quality defense on the court.
Sophomore Matt Bingaya leads the team in PPG, rebounds and steals per game, constantly providing the spark that USM needs on both offense and defense. With the six feet, five inch combo guard as the focal point of the team at this point in his career, he’s learning how to carry the team for years to come. He is top ten in the conference in steals per game, usage percentage, minutes played per game and effective field goal percentage.
The Golden Eagles need to score efficiently and effectively to top the Blue Raiders who have scored at least 60 points in five out of their last six games.
The Blue Raiders are on a two-game winning streak, beating Florida International and Florida Atlantic, heading into the matchup against Southern Miss.
The Blue Raider offense produces only 11.1 assists per game, and scores only 60.3 PPG. The leading scorer for MTSU is Reggie Upshaw, who leads the team with a mere 9.0 PPG.
Spreading the ball evenly among the players should not be a concern, but scoring will.
The thing to look out for in this game will be who will be the breakout player for the Blue Raiders. With so many PPG averages under tem points, any one of the players can break out for a big game.
With so many scoring options for the Blue Raiders, the Golden Eagles will have to lock down many options during the game.
This game should be fairly low scoring, with the Blue Raiders possibly pulling out a close win. The Golden Eagles are in a funk, but would have to play up to their collective potential to produce a win at a game which most students and faculty will be attending, due to it being a promotional game.
The matchup on Thursday is only the second time that the two programs will face each other with Middle Tennessee winning the first meeting 81-64.
The two teams play again on Feb. 5 at Middle Tennessee. Tipoff is at 7 p.m.