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CUSA weekend recap: Middle Tennessee, WKU, ODU prevail as final stretch approaches

Saturday’s action did not disappoint.

NCAA Basketball: UAB at Western Kentucky Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

CUSA has races at all levels, be it with at-large stakes on the line at the top, seeding in the middle and pride at the bottom. Here’s how the league shook out on Saturday with the final stretch approaching.

Southern Miss 72- Charlotte 49ers 54

The 49ers never led in this game on the road against the Golden Eagles. Charlotte cut the Southern Miss lead to four late in the first half, but USM blew past the 49ers in the second half gaining as much as a 30-point lead. Jon Davis was the leading scorer for Charlotte in the blowout loss scoring 20 points and five assists. For Southern Miss, the Golden Eagles’ Cortez Edwards, Dominic Magee, and Ladavius Draine all finished with double figures. Edwards finished with a double-double with 10 rebounds. Southern Miss (13-13, 6-7) is currently tied for eigth in the conference. Charlotte (5-18, 1-11) has lost 10 games in a row and is dead last in the league.

MTSU Blue Raiders 79- North Texas 73

Middle Tennessee welcomed a hot North Texas team was fresh off a win at UAB on Thursday night. The Mean Green kept it close the entire game thanks to a school-record 32 points by Roosevelt Smart, and a double-double from Ryan Woolridge (11 points, 10 rebounds). MTSU had four players finish in double figures, led by Nick King who had 32 points and 11 rebounds. North Texas had several chances to cut into the lead but turned the ball over several times in the final minutes. North Texas finished with 18 turnovers compared to MTSU’s five. MTSU (20-5, 12-1) now sits alone at the top of the conference, while North Texas (14-11, 7-5) will settle for a tie at the fifth spot in C-USA.

Old Dominion Monarchs 82- Louisiana Tech Bulldogs 69

NCAA Basketball: Louisiana Tech at Alabama Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

The Monarchs used a strong 45-point first half to blow past the Bulldogs in Ruston on Saturday night. Louisiana Tech didn’t shoot poorly, hitting 43 percent of its shots from the floor and from three-point land, but also turned the ball over 20 times. The Bulldogs’ defense also allowed ODU to shoot 56 percent from the floor and hit 10 threes. The Monarchs were led by B.J. Stith who finished with 18 points. Three other Monarchs finished with double figures. Jacobi Boykins led the way for Louisiana Tech with 20 points, while Derric Jean added 14. ODU (19-5, 10-2) has won seven of their last eight games and is tied for second place in the conference. Louisiana Tech has now lost two of their last three. The Bulldogs (15-11, 6-7) are in a tie for eighth place in C-USA.

FAU Owls 68- Marshall Thundering Herd 79

This game turned out to be closer than most expected. The Owls gained a few leads in the first half off key baskets by Ronald Delph, but in the second half the Owls couldn’t catch up to the Herd. The Owls didn’t score for four minutes late in the game, which allowed Marshall to go on an 11-0 run that held the lead for the remainder of the game. Marshall’s big three — Jon Elmore, Ajdin Penava, and C.J. Burks — all scored double figures, with help from Rondale Watson who scored 18 points off the bench. Delph was the primary contributor for FAU with 21 points and 11 rebounds. Marshall (17-8, 8-4) is in fourth place in C-USA, while FAU (10-15, 4-9) drops to 11th place.

FIU Panthers 76- WKU Hilltoppers 83

Just as WKU thought it could shake off the Panthers, it kept roaring back in one of the closer games on Saturday. The Hilltoppers allowed leads of nine and 10 points to slip back to one-possession leads in the second half. The key separation came with 1:40 remaining when Justin Johnson nailed two free throws for WKU and FIU turned the ball over leading to a Lamonte Bearden layup to extend the lead to 75-69. Missed shots and fouling gave WKU a lead that they wouldn’t lose in the final minute. Johnson led all Hilltoppers in scoring with 25 points, while FIU’s Trejon Jacob led the Panthers with 22 points. FIU (11-15, 5-8) drops to 10th place, while WKU (18-7, 10-2) continues to hold onto a tie for second place with ODU.

Rice Owls 56- UAB Blazers 61

NCAA Basketball: UAB at Texas-El Paso Ivan Pierre Aguirre-USA TODAY Sports

It’s hard to find a team which has had a rougher few weeks than UAB. The Blazers came in losing five of their last seven games and losing two straight home games to UTSA and North Texas. The Blazers started strong in the game and didn’t lose the lead until Robert Martin drained a three for Rice with 14:38 left in the second half. UAB trailed by nine points with 3:54 remaining, but Rice began to implode. The Owls allowed a 15-1 run by UAB to close out the game after careless offensive fouls and clutch baskets by the Blazers down the stretch. UAB was led by Chris Cokley, William Lee, and Nate Darling, who all finished in double figure scoring. Rice also had three players finish with double-digit points led by Bishop Mency and Ako Adams who both had 15 points. UAB (16-10, 7-6) is now in seventh place, while Rice (5-20, 2-10) is tied for 12th.

UTSA Roadrunners 63- UTEP Miners 59

Neither team put on an offensive clinic on Saturday night. UTSA did shoot 40 percent from three-point land and shot 39 percent from the floor, but the Roadrunners also missed 11 free throws and turned the ball over 16 times. The Miners shot even worse from the charity stripe, shooting only 47 percent and missing 18 free throws in the process. The key stretch of the game occurred with 7:26 to go as UTEP pulled within two, 53-51. The Miners did not score again until 2:18 remaining, allowing UTSA to build a small lead. The Roadrunners were led by Deon Lyle who finished with 18 points off the bench. Matt Willms added a team-high 12 points in the contest. UTEP (7-17, 2-10) is on a six-game losing streak and is tied for 12th place in C-USA. UTSA (14-11, 7-5) is riding a four-game win streak and currently tied for the fifth-place spot with UNT.