Despite a sluggish start, 61 total fouls called and 71 free throws attempted between the two, Southern Miss defeated Jackson State 67-51 to win its season opener on Friday at Reed Green Coliseum.
The Golden Eagles started the game on a 7-0 run that included a powerful dunk by Daveon Boardingham, a Michael Craig jump shot and a 3-pointer by Aaron Brown.
After scoring the first seven points, Jackson State fired back with a jump shot from Brandon West and a 3-pointer of its own by Marcus Love to make the score 7-5 with 13:43 left in the first period.
From there, both teams struggled to distance themselves. As part of a new rule in college basketball, absurd fouls dominated the first half of the game. “You get a stop, get a lay-up, make a big shot, then boom — it’s a ticky-tack foul,” said Donnie Tyndall, second year head basketball coach. “We could not get 8-2 run or a 12-4 run like we normally do.”
With 6:01 left in the first half, Jerrold Brooks hit one of his three crucial 3-point shots to put Southern Miss ahead 22-18 before a 30-second timeout.
Following the timeout, Jackson State went on a 13-6 run with Javeres Brent nailing a pair of long range 3-pointers to give the Tigers a commanding 31-28 lead at halftime. Jackson State out-rebounded Southern Miss 24-20 and converted 7-11 from the free-throw line, while Southern Miss made 12-20 from the free-throw line at the half.
Senior guard Neil Watson, who missed the last five weeks with a broken jaw, had 4 points and 6 rebounds at the half. He stated the team was not playing Southern Miss basketball. “The defensive intensity wasn’t high. The defensive pressure wasn’t there,” Watson said. “So in the second half, we came out and played harder.”
The Golden Eagles came out after halftime and put relentless pressure on the Tigers. Going back and forth from a full court press to a zone defense, Southern Miss outscored Jackson State 39-20 in the second half.
Three-point shooting, which was significant in keeping Jackson State in the game, was a non-factor during the second half. Jackson State went 0-9 on 3-point field goals.
Looking for a spark in the offense, Jerrold Brooks hit two critical back-to-back 3-pointers with 14:30 left in in the second half to give Southern Miss a 41-35 lead. The Tigers managed to narrow the Golden Eagle lead to four with 9:40 remaining in the game; however, good defense allowed the Eagles to limit the Tigers to one field goal over the last 8:13. Southern Miss ended the game on an 18-2 run.
For the game, the Golden Eagles shot a disappointing 38 percent from the field, converted 30-44 from the free throw line and out-rebounded the Tigers 42-38.
Daveon Boardingham led all scorers with 15 and a career-high nine rebounds. Aaron Brown scored 12 and Jerrold Brooks finished with 11 points. Neil Watson added nine points, four assists and a career-high nine rebounds.
Javeres Brent was the leading scorer for the Tigers with 11 points, followed by Julysses Nobles and Jeffery Stubbs adding 11 points respectively.
Despite the win, Tyndall said his team has room for improvement. “There’s a fine line between saying maybe we didn’t do some things as well as we’d hoped and not giving Jackson State enough credit,” he said. “They competed. I don’t want to take anything from them, but we’ve certainly got some room to grow.”
On Wednesday, the team will travel to Rosemont, Ill., for a four game road span to take on DePaul in the opening game of the CBE Hall of Fame Classic. Tipoff is set for 8 p.m.