Southern Miss hosted Troy Tuesday night, defeating the Trojans 72-70 in a second half thriller, improving to 3-1 overall.
“I don’t think you can ever be disappointed with a win,” said head coach Doc Sadler. “You better enjoy it.”
Coach Sadler had much to be happy about while his team battled it out and never gave up to protect home court Tuesday night.
Offensively, the Golden Eagles had a great start in the first half maintaining the lead until Troy’s Musa Abdul-Aleem nailed one of his many three-pointers of the night giving the Trojans a 23-22 lead with 8:07 remaining.
That shot gave Troy all the momentum and the Golden Eagles were only able to come within two, before going down seven points before the half when Abdul-Aleem sunk a three making the score 42-35 at haltime.
“Defensively, the first half, we were not a good basketball team,” Sadler said. “One thing that’s going to give us problems all year is defensive rebounding. Our guards have to do a much better job rebounding.”
USM was only able to come up with 13 defensive boards while Troy had 22. Overall, Troy dominated on the boards 36-23. Southern Miss shot 39 percent from the field in the first half and 81 percent on free throws.
The Golden Eagles knew before the game they had to find a way to stop Troy’s hot hand Abdul-Aleem.
“Coach told us to treat him like a starter,” said Matt Bingaya. “He shot well and knocked a lot of shots down. We really had to find a way to contain him.”
USM’s offensive came alive in the second half. A jumper by Chip Armelin had the Golden Eagles within one, 48-49 with 15:15 on the clock.
With 8:20 remaining, Abdul-Aleem hit a 3-pointer, and USM’s Rasham Suarez answered back with a 3-pointer of his own, keeping the Golden Eagles within reach.
A Jeremiah Eason defensive rebound resulted in a USM fast break and a Davon Hayes layup giving Southern Miss their first lead in the second half, 63-62.
Troy’s Chris Bilbo was able to make a layup with 50 seconds remaining, tying the game 70-70, forcing USM to take a timeout.
A missed USM jumper gave the ball back to the Trojans with 36 seconds left in the game. Bilbo dribbled around, guarded closely by Suarez, with intentions of wasting all the time off the clock for a last-second shot. USM’s Carey had a clutch steal and finished with his signature slam-dunk giving Southern Miss a 72-70 edge with five seconds left.
“You can either sit back and let them be the aggressor or you can be the aggressor,” Sadler said. “Rasham did an excellent job of putting pressure on the point guard for an extended period of time, which allowed Norville to make a play.”
Carey has had two dunks late in games that have really swung momentum for the Golden Eagles.
“It felt really good, but I was trying to get back on defense and I just saw everyone rushing out,” Carey said. “I was trying to keep my poise. The game was so close and I didn’t want to get to hype before the game was actually over.”
USM was able to hold off Troy for those final five seconds and increase their home winning streak to 18 games in a row.
Bingaya finished with a career-high 25 points. He made three three-pointers and went 6 for 8 at the free-throw line. Armelin and Suarez both had season-highs for the night scoring 15 and 9, respectively.
“We’re a young team right now, but I really have faith in our team,” Bingaya said. Everyone knows about our home winning streak and we know we have to protect home court. It was kind of ugly tonight, but we just found a way to win.”
The Golden Eagles will travel to Philadelphia, Pa. taking on Drexel Nov. 30 at 4 p.m.