The men's basketball team put up a great performance in last week's Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic, taking home 3rd place in a field that included Xavier, Kansas St., Auburn, and Clemson. Their play as of late has allowed them to keep moving up in our conference power rankings, as well as in the eyes of anyone who has seen them play. That said, here is what is going on around Miner Nation, Conference USA, and the rest of the country.
AROUND MINER NATION
The men's basketball team showed a ton of poise and determination last week, knocking off the ACC's Clemson, the SEC's Auburn, and narrowly falling to the Big 12's Kansas St. on their way to a 3rd place finish in the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic.
The team just continues to improve and impress on a daily basis, and they are playing some extremely competitive ball even after losing two of their post players. The Miners began the tourney with a 61-48 win over Clemson, then were outlasted by #25 Kansas St. in the semifinals 78-70, before dropping Auburn and former UTEP coach Tony Barbee 83-76 to claim 3rd place.
The tournament proved to be a place where multiple Miners broke out of their shells to turn in amazing performances. Cedrick Lang was solid night in and night out, John Bohannon turned in possibly his best performance as a Miner with a 20 point 9 rebound effort against Auburn, and Michael Perez carried the team most of the way averaging nearly 18 points a game and garnering All Tournament accolades.
UTEP's Michael Perez and Cedrick Lang earned C-USA honors this week as Perez was named the co-player of the week, and Lang was named the C-USA freshman of the week. Perez averaged 17.7 points a contest in the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic, including a 25 point performance against Clemson, while Lang averaged 9.8 points and 5.8 rebounds a game in the Miners' four contests last week. Congratulations to both.
The Lady Miners, who fell to UC Santa Barbara last week, will look to get back on track this week in a big matchup vs. the Pac 12's Arizona State Sun Devils. The Miners had started out the season 10-0, before falling to the Gauchos 49-48 last week in El Paso. The Sun Devils are 8-2 on the season.
AROUND CONFERENCE USA
It was hardly the outcome that most expected to see, but the #21 Southern Miss Golden Eagles (12-2) won the 2011 Hawaii bowl over the Nevada Wolfpack (7-6) by a final of 24-17. Austin Davis went 18-41 for 165 yards and 2 TDs in the win, but the true hero in the game was the USM special teams who blocked a first quarter punt and returned it for a TD. Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora will now depart the school to take over at the University of North Carolina. The win takes C-USA to 2-0 on the bowl season.
The Tulsa Golden Hurricane (8-4) will play its bowl game this week against BYU (9-3) in the Bell Helicopters Armed Forces Bowl. The game will be played on Friday December 30th at 12:00 p.m. ET in Dallas, TX. The Cougars have won three in a row since losing to TCU in late October, while the Hurricane had won 7 in a row before losing the season finale to Houston.
AROUND THE NATION
USC quarterback Matt Barkley has decided to return to the university for his senior season. Barkley was widely expected to be a top 15 pick in the 2012 NFL draft, but the senior to be has elected to return for a 4th season. USC, who has been ineligible to play in postseason games for 2 years, will certainly be a favorite to make a run at the national championship in 2012, while Barkley, who passed for over 3,500 yards, 39 TDs, and only 7 INTs, will be one of the top contenders for the Heisman.