Eagles fall to Arizona Wildcats
Published: Wednesday, December 5, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, December 5, 2012 23:12
The Golden Eagles (6-2) went toe-to-toe with No. 8 Arizona on Tuesday but ultimately fell to the Wildcats 55-63. Southern Miss has now dropped two straight contests after starting the season 6-0. Arizona remains perfect at 6-0, its best start since the 1999-2000 season.
The Golden Eagles’ stout 2-3 zone defense caused many problems for the Wildcat offense, as it forced Arizona into a season-high 27 turnovers. But the Golden Eagles were unable to capitalize on the extra possessions, committing 17 of their 22 turnovers in the second half.
Despite leading the Wildcats 35-27 at halftime, the Golden Eagles were stagnant on offense throughout the second half, missing all eight of their three-point attempts in the period. Southern Miss turned the ball over on eight consecutive possessions during one stretch of the second half, and Arizona promptly jumped out to a 49-44 lead on the strength of a 10-0 run.
USM refused to go away quietly, as junior guard Jerrold Brooks helped the Golden Eagles retake a 51-49 lead after converting a circus layup with 5:52 remaining. Their efforts were halted when the Wildcats put together a second 10-0 run on the strength of two clutch three-pointers, putting the game out of reach for Donnie Tyndall’s squad.
Southern Miss sophomore point guard Neil Watson led the way for the Golden Eagles, recording team-highs in points (17) and assists (3). He also logged 40 minutes of playing time, a result of Dwayne Davis’s absence from the lineup.
Southern Miss struggled offensively without its leading scorer, as Davis is averaging 15.1 points per game in seven contests this season. Junior swingman Michael Craig was the only other Golden Eagle in double digits, scoring 10 points to go along with his team-high seven rebounds. Senior forward Jonathan Mills had six points and six boards to his name, but also recorded a team-high six turnovers.
Sophomore guard Nick Johnson was an all-around bright spot for the Wildcats, pouring in a team-high 23 points and collecting a team-high four steals. Arizona also received a huge lift from Kevin Parrom, as the versatile senior grabbed a team-high eight rebounds and scored 13 of his 14 points in the second half. Johnson and Parrom were the only players to score in double figures for Arizona, an unusual feat for a Wildcat team that entered the matchup scoring an average of 85.2 points per game. This was good for sixth in the nation.
Arizona cruised through the early part of its schedule, but its eight-point win over Southern Miss was its lowest margin of victory six games into its season and was only its second game decided by single digits. Defense will continue to be key for Southern Miss going forward, as it has yet to give up more than 70 points to an opponent all season.
The Golden Eagles wrap up their three game road trip when they take on Louisiana Tech at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday. The Bulldogs enter the contest reeling from an 83-89 loss to Northwestern State but flaunt an overall record of 7-2.