Southern Miss used a heavy rebounding edge to down Louisiana Tech 80-71 Sunday afternoon to strengthen their RPI to 39th in the nation.
La. Tech came into the game as the top team in the conference at 15-3 and undefeated in conference play, but that did not intimidate USM. The Golden Eagles dominated the Bulldogs on the glass, holding a 48-26 advantage in rebounds including 19 offensive rebounds to the Bulldogs’ five.
“Early on, it was an offensive game, but as both teams settled in, it became the defensive slugfest we thought it would be,” said USM head coach Donnie Tyndall. “But for us to outrebound them (La. Tech) by 22, shows you how hard and physical we played.”
Michael Craig led the team with a career-high 12 rebounds and chipped in 17 points. Craig’s second-straight strong performance led to him being selected as the Conference USA men’s basketball Player of the Week.
Craig averaged 16.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 4 offensive rebounds per game in the two USM wins. He was also able to hold La. Tech’s Michale Kyser to just two rebounds and no blocks. Kyser came into the game averaging 7.6 rebounds and 3.9 blocks per game.
Daveon Boardingham had a game-high 20 points and was a dominant force defensively, blocking two shots and altering several others. Neil Watson struggled from the field, converting on only two of his eight field goal attempts, but was 8-for-8 from the line including four clutch free throws down the stretch to seal the game.
Jerrold Brooks had an uncharacteristically bad game going 2-for-15 from the field and 0-for-6 from three. For the game, USM struggled mightily from three as they shot just 11.1 percent and just 41.7 percent from the field.
La. Tech was much more impressive shooting throughout the game, but USM’s free throw shooting helped them secure their 16th win of the season. USM made 28 free throws while La. Tech only made 14.
USM will play Old Dominion (9-9, 3-0) Thursday night in Norfolk, Va. It will be USM’s second consecutive game against the top team in C-USA. If the Golden Eagles can come away with a victory, they will be the number one team in C-USA.
Tip-off is at 6 p.m. at the Constant Convocation Center. This will be the first time the two teams will face off as conference opponents.