Alabama (3-0) came out on fire to start the game, connecting on their first nine attempts from the field, and never looked back, cruising to an 81-67 win over Southern Miss (2-1).
Levi Randolph led the offensive surge for the Crimson Tide with 23 points on 8 of 12 shooting from the field and 3 of 4 from deep. Ricky Tarrant provided a huge spark off the bench as well with 18 points and connected on three 3-pointers. Shannon Hale was also very effective for Alabama with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
“You have to give Alabama credit,” said Southern Miss head coach Doc Sadler. “They took good shots and made it difficult for us on the defensive end. But, with only four guys who have played college basketball on the road, our youth showed. But, I wasn’t overly disappointed. There were some things that I was happy with. We only committed eight turnovers. We made some shots. But defensively, I didn’t think that we had the toughness that you need to go on the road and come out with a win.”
Despite the fast offensive start by Alabama, the Golden Eagles were only trailing 26-19 when the Crimson Tide finally missed a shot with just over ten minutes remaining in the first half. The deficit just about stood pat going into halftime as Alabama led 38-30.
However, Alabama went on a 17-7 run to open the second half and USM just could not keep pace. One of the lone bright spots for USM in the second half was the presence of Norville Carey off the bench, who was called the most athletic player on the team by Sadler prior to the season.
Carey scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half alone and scored ten straight points for USM over just a three minute span. The only other bright spot offensively for USM was Matt Bingaya, who totaled 19 points, shooting 7-13 from the field and 3-7 from 3-point land.
Bingaya made just one 3-pointer all of last season, but has proven that he is capable of making shots from deep so far this season. If he can keep it up, it will be huge for his offensive game as defenses will no longer be able to sag off the ball to protect against his biggest strength, getting to the rim.
However, the rest of the USM core struggled mightily throughout the game. Jeremiah Eason, Dallas Anglin, Chip Armelin and Shadell Millinghaus combined to score just 10 points, shooting a woefully awful 2 of 15 from the field over 66 total minutes. If the Golden Eagles are going to have any success this season, these four players will have to play much better moving forward.
As a team, USM shot just 41.6 percent from the field and 27.6 percent from deep while Alabama shot 57.1 percent from the field and 47.4 percent from deep. The Crimson Tide also outrebounded USM 36-22. It was clear from tipoff that Alabama is simply just more experienced and disciplined then the Golden Eagles at this point in the season.
USM will get a chance to remedy some of their mistakes Tuesday when they host Troy (1-2) at 7 p.m. The Golden Eagles have their work cut out for them moving forward as there are four teams in Conference USA that are still undefeated.