Early in the first half, redshirt junior forward Tim Rowe pushed Southern Miss (12-9, 4-5 C-USA) ahead 9-2 with a momentum-shifting three-pointer. Southern Miss dominated Marshall (12-9, 5-3 C-USA) out of the gates with its shooting, going 7-for-13 behind the three-point line in the first half and shooting 64.6 percent overall in the 101-51 win on Saturday night.
Still feeling the effects from a close loss on Thursday night against Western Kentucky, the Golden Eagles bounced back as a more focused team, according to junior forward Leonard Harper-Baker.
“I just think we came out with tremendous focus tonight,” Harper-Baker, who finished with a double-double of 15 points and 14 rebounds, said. “Coming out the loss against Western Kentucky losing by three. Tonight, we just wanted to stay focused and keep our foot on the pedal.”
Southern Miss capitalized on Marshall’s recent slate of games, as the team had played five contests in the last 10 days. The Golden Eagles jumped out to an early 12-2 lead and amassed a 48-31 lead by halftime.
At the helm of the team’s early lead was Tim Rowe, who put up 11 points in just 11 minutes of playing time. Rowe kicked off the Southern Miss’ hot streak behind the three-point line. Southern Miss tied its season-high of 13 three-pointers against the Thundering Herd.
“We really just wanted to go out and play with some energy,” Rowe said. “Marshall is a really talented team. We have a lot of respect for them. We have had a lot of good games in the past. They are coming back from a road trip. Pretty sure they [we’re] tired. We still came out and won.”
The key to the win was Southern Miss being able to dominate inside the paint with 46 points in that area, compared to just 12 for Marshall. The three-point shooting allowed for the Golden Eagles to score easily up the middle but more importantly, the defensive play was just as essential. Southern Miss held Marshall’s leading scorer Jon Elmore, who averages 19.5 points per game, to just 11 points.
“In the game, we had to do a good job keeping them off the free throw line,” Southern Miss head coach Doc Sadler said. “They are scoring 18 points a game [on the free throw line]. We still gave up 14, but a couple of them was late and then the biggest thing is that we couldn’t let them score in the lane. I think we gave up 12 points in the lane today. Elmore is such a good player that gets guys easy baskets and we didn’t give up easy baskets.”
An 18-0 run at the start of the second half broke the game open, and the team outscored Marshall 53-20 overall in the half.
In all, the Golden Eagles had five players reach double-digits and two with double-doubles. Along with Harper-Baker’s double-double, sophomore LaDavius Draine led the team with 18 points, followed by redshirt senior Kevin Holland with 16 points. Senior Cortez Edwards also had 15 points and 10 assists.
Notably, senior Tyree Griffin had nine points and 15 assists, which ranks third in school history for assists in a single game.
The Golden Eagles will go on the road to play Florida International next on Jan. 31 at 6 p.m.