The Southern Miss basketball team enters its toughest two-game homestand of the season when it hosts Conference USA-leading UAB at 7 p.m. on Thursday and second-place Middle Tennessee at 7 p.m. on Saturday.
UAB has been dominant in C-USA play so far, sitting at 20-4 overall and 10-1 in conference competition. The only loss on the conference schedule for UAB is a 69-62 defeat at Western Kentucky on Jan. 28.
The Blazers are coming off their biggest blowout win in C-USA play after winning at Florida Atlantic, 104-67, on Saturday.
Southern Miss enters Thursday's game following a disappointing two-game road trip that involved a 70-54 loss at North Texas and a 72-65 defeat at Rice.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Sun Herald
USM (7-14, 4-6) has played well in Hattiesburg of late, winning three of its last four there and its last two against UTEP and UTSA.
Second-year USM coach Doc Sadler hopes Hattiesburg will again be kind to his team, but the Golden Eagles will have to pick up their play on the defensive end of the court after North Texas and Rice both shot over 44 percent from the field against USM.
The Blazers are led by a strong sophomore duo in the front court in 6-foot-8 Chris Cokley and 6-foot-9 William Lee.
Cokley, who was named the C-USA Sixth Man of the Year in 2015, is UAB's leading scorer with averages of 13.6 points and 6.3 rebounds a game. Lee is UAB's top rebounder at 6.5 a game and averaging 10.3 points.
Even though USM is limping into this week's home games, UAB coach Jerod Haase believes his team will face a challenge Saturday.
"Southern Miss is continuing to improve," Haase said in a Wednesday press conference. "Doc Sadler has done an amazing job.
"I watched their tape and they play as hard as anybody in the league. They're not the tallest team or the best shot-blocking team, but they play hard and unselfish. They're going to try to shorten the game. They're going make us shoot quick and they'll take 25 seconds before they get a shot up. We have to be careful with their style of play because (Sadler) is doing a heck of a job playing to their strengths."
Senior guard Kourtlin Jackson continues to lead USM in scoring with an average of 11.6 points a game.
Point guard Khari Price is pitching in 10.2 points and and 4.0 assists a game.
Saturday's match against Middle Tennessee will serve as somewhat of a homecoming for MTSU sophomore guard Ed Simpson, a former St. Martin High School star. He is averaging 4.6 points and 2.7 rebounds in 21.5 minutes a game this season.
Simpson scored a season high of 14 points in a 64-61 win at Old Dominion on Jan. 16.
Sophomore guard Giddy Potts has been a standout for the Blue Raiders, hitting 51.1 percent of his 3-point shots and averaging 15.2 points a game.
MTSU has won nine of its last 10 games and sits at 17-6 overall with an 8-3 mark in conference play.