Southern Miss hosted South Alabama Monday night, defeating the Jaguars 68-59 in comeback fashion, improving to 2-0.
Head coach Doc Sadler said his team had the best practice of the year the day before the game. That practice did not carry over though, evidenced by USM’s first half struggles. Turnovers were a huge factor leading to many transition layups and uncontested shots for South Alabama.
The Golden Eagles had 15 turnovers the entire game; most were in the first half of play. USM’s mental mistakes and inability to convert on fast breaks resulted in a 10-point deficit, 29-19, with 3:18 remaining in the first half. Southern Miss was able to cut the lead to only seven at halftime.
USM looked like a brand new team in the second half.
A huge block by Matt Bingaya led to a fast break jump shot nailed by Chip Armelin, which put the Golden Eagles only down by one, 40-39. “That was a tale of two halves,” Sadler said. “We turned the ball over 11 times in the first half, and I honestly didn’t know what team I was watching. But, in the second half, we only turned it over four times, and we played much better. I think it shows what kind of guys we have. They never got down. They just kept plugging away and they were rewarded in the end.”
Southern Miss was clicking on all cylinders when Norville Carey’s dunk late in the second half kept momentum with the home team. That momentum sparked a 21-9 run over the final four minutes to secure the win.
“Normally when I dunk the ball, I don’t show any emotions, but I just felt some energy after that,” Carey said. “It got the fans into it. It was a good feeling.” The home crowd definitely was a factor in the game as the Golden Eagles extended their home winning streak to 17 games.
“The fans really helped us tonight; we probably wouldn’t have won the game without them,” Sadler said. Bingaya led all scorers with 14 points and added nine rebounds and three blocks while Armelin finished with 13 points. Shadell Millinghaus continued his hot start to the season with 11 points while Carey gave USM the a spark off the bench that they lacked against William Carey.
Carey had 10 points, six rebounds, two blocks and a steal in just 19 minutes. USM was able to make clutch free throws late in the game, 71 percent in the second half, which was a key part of the win.
“Anytime you win a basketball game you should be excited,” Sadler said. “Enjoy every single win.” Overall, the Golden Eagles shot 41 percent from the field with ten assists. USM dominated the boards with 44 rebounds compared to the Jaguars’ 29.
The Golden Eagle defense was once again stifling, holding their second straight opponent to under 40 percent from the field. They will need that stellar defense to continue against Alabama (2-0) who is averaging 81 points per game and have three players averaging double-digit points. Southern Miss will take on the Crimson Tide Nov. 20 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama at 8 p.m.