Southern Miss has won some key road games this season. To start the year, they pulled out a win at South Florida. They also have wins away from home against California, St. Louis, Houston and UAB.
There will be none tougher than heading to Memphis on Saturday, where the Golden Eagles have found beating the Tigers a very difficult task.
“Coach Eustachy and I were talking before practice, and he’s never beaten Memphis,” point guard Angelo Johnson said after practice today. “We know how tough it is to play up there, but we think we are up to the task. I’ve never beaten them either, and I’d love to get them this year.”
In the first match-up in Hattiesburg, it seemed the Eagles were finally going to get over the hump against the Tigers. But, a three pointer right before the buzzer by Memphis gave them a 76-75 win in front of a packed house.
Southern Miss has a full week to prepare for Memphis, and they are using every opportunity to get ready. “We had a good, intense day of practice today,” Johnson said. “Everybody knows what is at stake the rest of the season, and we are really getting after it defensively.”
Johnson is a junior who transferred to Southern Miss from Southern Cal, and he knows what his role is on the team this season. “My job is to make sure everyone is in place, and to run this offense,” he said. “I have to get the ball where it needs to be so we can have the best opportunity to score every possession. I also try to push the ball up when necessary.”
Johnson leads the team in assists at 4.3 per game, and he is also averaging 8 points and close to 4 rebounds per contest.
Team chemistry seems to be a strength of this year’s Eagles, and Johnson agreed. “Oh yeah, we are real close,” he said. “It is hard to believe we’ve only been playing together for a year, because we know each other so well. This group really gets along and pulls for each other.”
What are his expectations the rest of the way? "I expect us to win the regular season conference championship, and play in the NCAA tournament," Johnson said.
They will need plenty of that confidence and team chemistry Saturday, going into a tough place to play on the Memphis home floor. Game time is set for 5:00 and will be televised on ESPN2.