Golden Eagles dispatch conference foe Blazers
Published: Monday, January 21, 2013
Updated: Monday, January 21, 2013 23:01
On the same day in which the 1987 Southern Miss NIT Championship team was commemorated at Reed Green Coliseum, the Golden Eagles defeated the Blazers handily 74-59. Southern Miss has now won seven contests in a row, extending its home winning streak to 22 games, good for fifth best in the nation.
The Golden Eagles struggled to find their shot early, and they quickly fell behind 11-18 after UAB’s Terrance Jones knocked down three consecutive three-pointers. The battle-tested Eagles refused to go away quietly, as they responded with an 18-2 run and entered halftime leading by 11. UAB cut the deficit to eight points early in the second half, but the Eagles extended their lead to as much as 22 later in the frame, putting the game well out of reach for the Blazers.
The offensive onslaught was a result of the problems posed by Southern Miss’s stout 2-3 zone defense and full court press. Both facets of the Eagles’ defensive game plan kept the Blazers from finding a rhythm throughout the game’s entirety, as the Eagles converted 20 Blazer turnovers into 21 points at the offensive end. UAB only scored five points off eight Eagle turnovers, and collected two steals in comparison to Southern Miss’s 15. Southern Miss guard Neil Watson led the transition attack with a game-high four steals.
“You got to love the crowd when that’s happening,” said Southern Miss guard Cedric Jenkins of the crowd’s influence on their defensive intensity. “One deflection here, one steal there and a lay up can turn into one of those runs, all because of the crowd. Getting excited, cheering us on and rooting for us; it makes you want to go, it gives you the extra boost you need, you’re not tired anymore, you’re just pushing. Great crowd.”
The Eagles proved to be too deep for the Blazers, as four players (Jenkins, Dwayne Davis, Watson and Jonathan Mills) scored in double figures and nine players contributed to the 74-point effort. The Golden Eagles got a huge lift from their bench play, as they won the battle in bench-scoring 28-11.
According to senior forward Jonathan Mills, the win can be attributed to a selfless team effort.
“We are a very unselfish team,” Mills said. “We look for our other teammates to score. Sometimes I think we’re too unselfish. So that’s a key to winning, being unselfish and knowing your teammates.”
The unselfish play of the Eagles has them alone atop C-USA with a conference mark of 4-0 and an overall record of 15-4. According to Southern Miss head coach Donnie Tyndall, the Eagles are exceeding preseason expectations.
“Guys are tough and gritty and it’s overcoming a lot of the obstacles or lack or experience or challenges that we’ve been thrown,” said Tyndall. “I heard Mills say he wants to credit the coaches, but it’s really just the opposite. These guys have bought in and they’ve worked extremely hard.”
The Golden Eagles conclude their two-game home stand when they welcome the visiting Thundering Herd on Wednesday at 6 p.m. Marshall is 9-9 overall with a conference mark of 2-1.