The Conference USA semifinals are set to get underway on Friday evening after four teams advanced out of the quarterfinal round on Thursday. Top-ranked Louisiana Tech dropped ninth-seeded Charlotte and will play No. 4 seed Southern Mississippi, who beat fifth-seeded UTEP. Second-ranked Tulsa blew out No. 7 seed Tulane, setting up a contest against No. 3 seed Middle Tennessee, who eased passed sixth-seeded Old Dominion.
Louisiana Tech defeated Charlotte 86-65, outscoring their opponent 50-39 in the second half after taking a 10-point lead into halftime. Michale Kyser scored a career-high 20 points and grabbed nine rebounds, and Alex Hamilton added 19 points for the Bulldogs, who have won nine of their last 10 games. Louisiana Tech held Charlotte to 37.9% shooting, including just 33.3% from the three-point line, while making 49.2% of their field goal attempts.
Southern Mississippi will take on Louisiana Tech after dispatching UTEP on Thursday, 64-56. The Golden Eagles got strong contributions from their bench, as Aaron Brown led all scorers with 18 points and Michael Craig notched 12 points and 12 rebounds. After leading by four points at halftime, Southern Miss extended their lead to 51-37 before UTEP closed the gap to 51-48. Southern Miss was able to hold on, however, and out-rebounded UTEP 45-28 on the day, including a 20-7 advantage on the offensive glass.
Tulsa knocked off Tulane 70-49, pulling away in the second half. James Woodard led Tulsa with 24 points and six rebounds, making four of his seven three-point attempts. Rashad Smith contributed with 13 points, seven rebounds, and two blocks. Tulsa held just a four-point lead after halftime, but outscored Tulane 37-20 in the second half, using a 12-1 run to take a 46-33 lead with 13:43 remaining. The Hurricane would then put the game out of reach later on in the half with a 22-4 run, taking a 70-46 lead that effectively ended the game.
Middle Tennessee advanced to play Tulsa on Friday with a 62-48 victory over Old Dominion. The Blue Raiders benefited from a strong first half, jumping out to an 11-2 lead and outscoring Old Dominion 30-19 in the first half. Neiko Hunter led Middle Tennessee with 16 points, while Tweety Knight and Kerry Hammonds II added 11 points apiece. Middle Tennessee held Old Dominion to just 32.1% from the floor and 4-of-15 from three-point land and knocked down 54.3% of their shots in the process.
Friday's semifinals will begin with the Tulsa-Middle Tennessee matchup at 4:00 p.m., with Louisiana Tech and Southern Miss facing off at 6:30 p.m. In their only meeting this season, Tulsa topped Middle Tennessee 58-53 back in January. Southern Miss defeated Louisiana Tech 80-71 earlier in January in their only meeting of the season.
Here is a link to the Conference USA Tournament bracket.