Southern Miss (1-1) earned its first win of the season against neighboring school William Carey (3-4). The Golden Eagles stamped its victory with a 27-point lead, beating the Crusaders 80-53.
While Southern Miss shot at a 30.8% success rate in its season opener at Jacksonville, the Golden Eagles improved to a 55% field goal percentage against William Carey. Ladner explains how the team improved from its last performance.
“We were just more relaxed tonight,” Ladner said. “I thought we played hard and really competed on the defensive end. I really liked our activity on the glass.”
Junior forward Tyler Stevenson led the Golden Eagles with 27 points, which tied his career high. He also added seven rebounds and shot an efficient 11-13 from the field. Forward Artur Kononstuk, guard Tae Hardy and forward Tyler Morman also scored double-digit totals each. Stevenson explained his plan for the first home game of the season.
“For me, my mindset coming out was just to play hard and to play defense and just let the offense come to me,” Stevenson said.
On defense, Southern Miss forced the Crusaders to turn the ball over 22 times. The Golden Eagles took advantage of this by scoring 35 points off of turnovers. Hardy explained how he and the team hyped themselves and others up to prepare for the game.
“We were just listening to the coaches, trusting our coaches, trusting our offense, trusting each other, running the lanes [and] just getting out because we’re an athletic team and we should be able to run the score up,” Hardy said.
After trailing in the first minute, Southern Miss never looked back. The Golden Eagles jumped to a 39-24 lead by going on a 14-5 run to end the first half.
Coming off of the bench, Kononstuk led the Golden Eagles with 10 points at halftime after he drained two of his four attempts at the three-point line.
Southern Miss continued to build onto its lead in the second half. Stevenson scored 19 of the Golden Eagles’ 41 second half points on a perfect seven of seven shots from the field. However, Stevenson shot below 50% from the charity stripe, making five of his 12 free throw attempts on the game.
“I got to get in the gym every day and get a lot of shots on the free throw line,” Stevenson said. “My performance from the free throw line wasn’t good, so I’ve got to get in there every day.”
As a team, Southern Miss continued to struggle at the free throw line, only making 35% of their shots from the charity stripe. The Golden Eagles shot 42% from the free throw line in its first game.
“We struggled again at the line tonight,” Ladner said. “That’s an area y’all think we wouldn’t have practiced on, but trust me, we’re going to keep firing. That is a critical part of a ball game.”
Southern Miss outrebounded the Crusaders 38-27. Sophomore forward Denijay Harris led the Golden Eagles with 10 rebounds. Morman contributed in the second half with four rebounds, adding eight points to the board.
Ladner says he is impressed with the team’s performance on defense and that it will have to “carry” the team as they develop on offense.
“Our defense, I’m proud of it,” Ladner said, “we can even get better, and it’s going to have to carry us until we can develop our offensive chemistry and identity.”
Southern Miss will look for revenge when they next play at Tulane on Dec. 9. Last year, the Golden Eagles lost to the Green Wave 56-61.