After a lackluster performance against Tulsa resulting in the Golden Eagles men’s basketball team’s first conference loss, the Golden Eagles (15-3, 2-1) bounced back with a 84-62 victory over the Rice Owls (5-11, 0-3).
Rice drew first blood as Austin Ramljak knocked down a three from the corner, but once Southern Miss took the lead 3:04 into the game, they never relinquished it. They controlled the game from the tip and kept the student section on its feet the whole game.
Right before tip-off, head coach Donnie Tyndall stressed the importance of defense after allowing 75 points in their last outing. The Golden Eagles responded by running a full-court press that forced 14 turnovers, nine of those turnovers coming off steals, and held Rice to 62 points.
Rice could not get anything going inside the paint due to the Golden Eagles’ 2-3 zone defense which made it difficult for the Owls’ inside game to get going, forcing them to rely on jump shots.
The Southern Miss players heard what Coach Tyndall said loud and clear. Playing physical, yet disciplined defense gave Rice just six chances at the charity strike. Rice went just 2-for-6 in their free throw attempts. Southern Miss was 18-for-26 from the free throw line.
Rice shot 43 percent from the floor and was 12-for-34 (35 percent) from beyond the three point line, struggling to find the bottom of the net. USM looked much more comfortable in Reed-Green Coliseum, shooting 28-for-54 (52 percent) from the floor and setting a season high from behind the arch shooting 50 percent.
Southern Miss also had the advantage in rebounding, outrebounding the Owls 43-20.
Southern Miss ended the game strong, scoring 12 of the game’s last 15 points. Rice scored three points in the final five minutes making only one field goal and committing two turnovers.
“I thought we wore them down,” Tyndall said. “Our guards did a good job of rebounding down and that led to us getting in the open floor.”
Michael Craig led the team in scoring with 16 points, shooting 6-for-7 from the field and going 4-for-4 at the charity stripe. Craig also hauled in seven rebounds and had three assists. Aaron Brown led the team in rebounds with a career-high eight and had 15 points. Neil Watson had a team-high six assists and 12 points.