Tyndall Town To the Top
More than 5,000 fans pack Greenhouse
Published: Thursday, March 21, 2013
Updated: Thursday, March 21, 2013 02:03
The key to NIT success is to pick yourself up off the mat. You’re coming off a loss in your conference tournament, and you’ve slept with the disappointment of not making the NCAA tournament for the last several nights.
Teams that win in the NIT move past all that disappointment and just play basketball. On Wednesday night, Southern Miss did that just a little bit better than Charleston Southern.
The Eagles and Buccaneers started off the game on fire in an up-and-down affair that had Reed Green Coliseum electrified. An early 6-0 Buccaneer lead was erased and turned into a Golden Eagle lead before the first media timeout.
Led by a barrage of three-pointers and an aggressive defense, Southern Miss opened up a 13-point lead halfway through the first half. Charleston Southern, however, would not be put away so easily.
The Big South regular season champions cut the Eagles’ lead to just four at halftime. The two teams combined to make 12 three-pointers in the first half. Southern Miss shot an astounding 50 percent from the field and 60 percent from three-point land to start the game.
The second half started out much like the first. Thanks to five straight points from senior forward Jonathan Mills and a three from junior point guard Neil Watson, Southern Miss stretched their lead back to double digits. Once again, Charleston Southern had too much pride to roll over.
The Buccaneers cut the Eagles’ lead to three before senior Dwayne Davis’s and-one opportunity staved off another CSU run, temporarily.
The Eagles dodged several bullets during the second half. Two of those coming in the form of technical fouls called on Mills and Watson in the span of just over one minute of game time. Luckily for the Eagles, Charleston Southern just couldn’t hit the shots to capitalize on any momentum, until they created their own.
With their deficit back to ten and just more than three minutes left, Charleston Southern took their last stand and went on another scoring tear. Their final fall was courtesy of the biggest three plays of senior Rashard McGill’s career. Up just three in the final seconds and with the shot clock running down, McGill hit a runner in the lane to extend the lead to five. McGill then hit two free throws after grabbing a rebound and blocked CSU’s final shot attempt to shut the door on the Bucs.
“If it wasn’t for our fans tonight, there’s no way we win that game tonight,” head coach Donnie Tyndall said after the win about the crowd of more than 5,000. “I’ve had administrators who have been here 20-25 years who have told me that they have never seen student crowds like this. What a student crowd tonight, they were fantastic.”
Mills and Davis led the way for the Eagles with 16 and 15 points, respectively. CSU was led by Saah Nimley, who scored 24 points, 21 of which came from behind the arc.
By a final score of 78-71, the top seeded Eagles advanced to the second round of the NIT and will host fifth seeded Louisiana Tech Monday at 9 p.m. Louisiana Tech won the regular season meeting between the two teams at home by a score of 65-55.
As for their next game, “We didn’t play Southern Miss basketball last time,” Watson said after the game. “This time it’s personal; we’ve been looking forward to this for a long time. They’re going to see the real Southern Mississippi.”