The Golden Eagles (0-2) lost their first home game of the season to Jackson State Tuesday, 78-60.
This game could have been much worse, to say the least. Little went well for the Golden Eagles, and head coach Doc Sadler shared his blame in his team’s poor outing.
“I’m not getting the message across on how important things are,” Sadler said. “It’s not just on the players, it’s on me. I’m responsible for the team.”
The offense was not clicking efficiently, as it seemed that no one could score when it was needed. The defense was atrocious, giving up 44 percent from three-point range. Raheem Watts led the Golden Eagles in scoring, which is not a bad thing by any means, but he only scored a mere 13 points.
There were too many negatives to take away from the game, according to Sadler.
“It’s not about winning, it’s about being respectable,” Sadler said. “The benefits are down the road, and unfortunately, we don’t have time to wait.”
The lack of effort from the Golden Eagles was the main issue.
Numerous times during the game, the Golden Eagles were out-hustled to loose balls, beat on the defensive glass and struggled to get back in transition defense.
“We have to play tougher than our opponent every night,” Watts said. “No matter who it is.”
Southern Miss was down 42-26 by halftime, and the margin was wide early, 34-12, with just under six minutes left in the half.
“They’re giving me everything they’ve got,” Sadler said. “They want to do good, they really do, and I feel for them.”
The second half proved well for USM, as they closed the gap to 11 at one point. Southern Miss showed more enthusiasm and energy in the second half, even if the scoreboard didn’t show results.
With a last-minute dunk at the end, Keljin Blevins was able to take out his frustrations of the efforts of his squad.
“We dug a big hole for ourselves and we couldn’t get out,” Blevins said. “That’s what coach wants us to do. Get out in transition and run and that’s something that can spark something.”
Sadler shook up the starting lineup a little bit against Jackson State, replacing Tim Rowe with Michael O’Donnell. The starting lineup played better this time around, but not by much. But talent is not the issue. Inexperience and a lack of identity are the things hindering USM at this point.
“With the guys (we’ve) got, we can turn this around,” Blevins said. “It’s just two games. We’ve got 27 more and we can make this positive.”
A few weeks ago, speculation had surrounded the program that Norville Carey and Kevin Holland would redshirt. To make matters worse, senior forward Jamie Chapman was also rumored to have decided to take the year off. Now, it has been confirmed, and the Golden Eagles are paying for all three of their absences, especially Carey’s.
“We miss him a lot,” Watts said. “Just playing against him in practice, I know what he can bring to the table.”
Moving forward, the Golden Eagles will have to get it together— quickly. In their next contest against William Carey, the Golden Eagles will have to control the game from the outset. In both of the games to start the season, Southern Miss let the opposing team control the tempo of the game, which they certainly cannot do against the Crusaders.
WCU is led by honorable mention All-American guard Donta Pittman, and he easily has Division I talent. The Crusaders’ strength is forcing turnovers and running in transition, which USM has struggled to defend early in the season. The Crusaders have a legitimate shot to upset the cross-town Golden Eagles.
USM will have to show more fight and grit against WCU and in their future contests, because it will be hard for Southern Miss to win off of pure talent alone.
Southern Miss will take on William Carey Nov. 23 at Reed Green Coliseum. Tipoff is at 7 p.m.