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Friday, April 18, 2014 | Last updated: 7:47am

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Arizona basketball cannot afford to overlook Southern Miss



Southern Miss isn’t necessarily a household name, but neither was Charleston Southern when the No. 8 Arizona Wildcats faced them on Nov. 11.

But just like CSU in the Big South, the Golden Eagles, who will play Arizona (5-0) at McKale Center tonight at 7:30 p.m., are contenders to win their conference and are not a team that the Wildcats can afford to overlook.

Southern Miss brings a 6-1 overall record into tonight’s game against impressive competition, as it defeated Georgia 62-60 on the road in overtime.

Southern Miss was 25-9 a season ago and lost to Kansas State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament while boasting two all-conference players in Jonathan Mills and Neil Watson, both of whom returned this year.

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Larry Hogan / Arizona Daily Wildcat

The Golden Eagles have raced out to a hot start in large part because of three different areas.

Defense

Southern Miss has only allowed more than 65 points to New Mexico State, in its only loss of the season, holding every other team to an average of 58.9 points per game.

Even in the loss, NMSU only scored 68 points and forced 19 turnovers.

The Golden Eagles have forced 113 turnovers in seven contests this season, an average of 16 per game.

The Wildcats average 13.4, but against a bit tougher competition.

Their defense along the 3-point line has also paid dividends for the Golden Eagles, as they only allow a 28 percent shooting percentage from beyond the arc. This will be a nice test for the Wildcats who have been extremely efficient from beyond the arc thus far, as they are tied for fifth in the nation with a 43.8 shooting percentage from three.

Rebounding

The Golden Eagles have outrebounded opponents by an average of about five per game, leading to more scoring opportunities.

The Wildcats have outrebounded their opponents by an average of 13 per game, but Southern Miss averages nine more than Arizona opponents.

The Golden Eagles average 34 rebounds per game and are led by the 6-foot-5 Mills with 7.6 per game and Michael Craig at 5.4.

The Wildcats should still hold an advantage here, though, as they are led by a 7-foot Kaleb Tarczewski (6.8 rebounds per game), 6-foot-8 Brandon Ashley (7.4) and 6-foot-6 Solomon Hill (4.8).

Depth

Similar to the Wildcats, 10 Southern Miss players have significant game experience this season. Of the 12 players on the Golden Eagles’ roster, nine have played in six or all seven games, and each of the nine averages more than 14 minutes per game. The depth has not led to more breadth in the scoring department, though, as only two players average double digit scoring — senior forwards Dwayne Davis and Jonathan Mills.

If you go
No. 8 Arizona against Southern Miss
When: 7:30 p.m.
Where: McKale Center
Radio: IMG College/Wildcat Radio Network
TV: Pac-12 Networks

Fun fact:
Tonight’s game is the third ever meeting between the UA and Southern Miss, with the Wildcats holding a 2-0 series lead. The last meeting came 62 years ago in a 90-56 win.*


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