Sadler’s third-year Golden Eagles are sitting with a record of 3-5, after four straight losses to South Alabama, Jackson State, Florida State and Tulane, which was a 72-64 loss that was not as close as the score indicates.
The Golden Eagles have won three games this year, compared to last year when the Golden Eagles did not capture their third win until the ninth contest of the year. This year’s Southern Miss team has the talent to capture more wins down the stretch, but it goes beyond the box score from games.
“I feel like if we can exceed [opponents’] energy, we have a good chance,” said Head Coach Doc Sadler. “These guys are frustrated. I understand that. I’m frustrated. Everybody is frustrated.”
This team shows a fight that was seen last year, but it is more prominent this year, with the eye right on the Tulane loss.
The impromptu point guard Kevin Holland shot 5-of-5 from three-point range as he is only one of two C-USA players to shoot 100 percent from three-point range with a minimum of five attempts. He also set a career-high in assists with eight in the game.
It was his shooting and his passing that kept the team afloat in the contest until the end, leading his team to post more assists than turnovers in a single game for the second time this season.
“Sometimes, I think most of our turnovers are unforced,” Holland said after the team’s loss to Tulane. “We’re just not paying attention and being careless with the ball. That’s something that we’ve been trying to cut down all season. It gave us an opportunity to play the game close.”
Sophomore center Tim Rowe also had a career-high in assists with five, helping to orchestrate the offense from the post position. Sophomore forward Eddie Davis III held his own putting the ball in the basket with 13 points, surpassing his average of 9.4 points for the season.
“I’m just tired of losing,” Davis said. “I took it upon myself that I need to be aggressive. Post [up] really hard and be really aggressive. Just do what I can.”
The team’s implementing an offense that focuses heavily on ball-screens at the top of the key to free the space left by the lack of a point guard (Khari Price, who is out until early January). The space of the offense gives players driving lanes to either go to the basket for the attempted layup, or to get fouled (USM shoots 63 percent from the free-throw line).
Another option to get points will be to kick it to the “third side,” Sadler calls it, where the weak-side corner is open for an open three-pointer. But, the Golden Eagles will look to improve on their sub-30 percent three-point stroke.
“When you’re shooting bad, you have to get more stops than ever,” Holland said. “We were still shooting with confidence, it just wasn’t falling. We just got to take care of the ball.”
The Golden Eagles will face stiff competition this season, in and out of conference play. But, the signs trend upward for the Golden Eagles as they will continue this year, hoping for a conference tournament berth.