Jan. 13, 2012
*Written by the 'Voice of the Golden Eagles' John Cox
Despite their heart-breaking 60-58 loss to the Memphis Tigers on Wednesday night at the Fed Ex Forum, the Golden Eagle basketball team is off to one of the best starts in school history and the race towards the Conference USA championship should be a good one and you can expect the Golden Eagles to be in the middle of things as it heads down the stretch.
The loss the other night to Memphis snapped an 11-game winning streak, which tied for the third longest in school history.
The longest winning streak in school history occurred nearly 50 years ago when the 1959-60 and the 1960-61 teams combined for a 26-game winning streak. That streak began on Jan. 4, 1960, and lasted until Jan. 4, of the following year. The 1959-60 team, coached by Fred Lewis, had lost its season opener, 82-72, at Alabama and then won its next eight games. Then, after an 85-78 loss at Southwestern Louisiana (now Louisiana-Lafayette), the Southerners won two nights later 81-75 at Lamar. That squad did not lose the rest of the year, finishing the season with 15 consecutive wins.
The closest call that they had during that streak came on Jan. 18 at Louisiana Tech when they found themselves trailing 67-65 with 15 seconds to go in regulation, but John Migliazzo stole an inbounds pass and hit Richie Goldberg with a pass and he scored in the final seconds to tie the game and send it into overtime. In the overtime, Roy Danforth hit a couple of free throws to secure a 74-70 win.
The 1959-60 team finished the year with a 23-2 record and a No. 4 ranking in the final United Press international College Division poll. When the final poll came out, Southern trailed only No. 1 Evansville, No. 2 Tennessee State and No. 3 Wittenberg College of Ohio.
The Southerners opened the 1960-61 season with 11-straight wins to extend that winning streak to 26 games. The streak almost came to an end at 23 when the Southerners faced East Tennessee State in the championship game of the Holiday Invitational Tournament in Laurel, Miss. Southern trailed by as many as 14 points in the contest, by pecked away at the ETSU lead until finally catching up with three minutes to go on and then sent the game into overtime when Alex Delia scored to tie the game at 71-71. In the overtime period, it was Delia who scored what proved to be the winning basket. The Southerners froze the ball in the final minute of overtime, preventing the visiting Buccaneers from getting the ball for another shot. The Southerners would win 77-76.
Victories at Fairleigh Dickinson and St. Peter's gave the team 26 straight wins, but that streak would come to an end actually one year from when it started when before over 5,000 fans at the Ellis Auditorium in Memphis. The second largest crowd to watch a game there saw the Memphis Tigers, who had been ranked No. 19 in the Associated Press University Division poll a few weeks before, pin the first loss of the year on Southern, 72-55. That Southern Miss team finished the year 23-3 and was ranked no. 2 in the UPI College Division Poll and No. 3 in the Associated Press College Division Poll at the end of the year. In the UPI poll, the Southerners finished behind Tennessee State.
Over that two-year period the team posted a 46-5 record.
The second-longest winning streak occurred during the 1952-53 season when Lee Floyd was the head coach. They had a 12-game winning streak that season as part of a 27-8 campaign that saw them win the NAIA District 19 playoffs in Cleveland, Miss., that earned them a spot in the NAIA National Tournament in Kansas City, Mo. There, they won their first two games against Wisconsin State and Loyola of Baltimore before losing 102-92 to Hamline in the third round.
The 1986-87 team won its final five games of the year, which happened to be in the NIT in which they won the championship. Then, they followed that up by winning their first six games of the 1987-88 season for an 11-game streak, while the 1967-68 team also put together an 11-game streak on their way to a 19-6 record.
When the Golden Eagles host UAB on Saturday at Green Coliseum, it will be the 37th meeting between the two teams in a series that began in 1978-79. Former UAB head coach and athletic director Gene Bartow, who recently passed away and is remembered as the "Father of UAB Athletics," patrolled the sidelines during the early days of the series.
In fact, the Blazers, under Coach Bartow, defeated the Golden Eagles in the first four meetings between the two schools in 1978-79 and 1980-81. In Bartow's final year as head coach at UAB, the Golden Eagles were able to win a pair of meetings. In the times I got a chance to be around Bartow, I found him to be one of the nicest men that I have ever been around. If you needed him to give you an interview or just to ask for some information, he was always willing to give you a few minutes to help you do whatever it was that you needed to do. He will be missed very much by the college basketball world and particularly around Conference USA. He was a good friend of Southern Miss and we send our thoughts and prayers out to his family.
Hope to have you at Reed Green Coliseum for the next two home games. The UAB game on Saturday will be carried by Fox Sports Net and tip-off time is scheduled for 1 p.m. The game will also be carried on the Southern Miss IMG Sports Network with our broadcast starting at 12:30 p.m., with our Golden Eagle Courtside Show. The pregame includes a look inside the basketball program with the Inside Scoop and look around Conference USA and an exclusive pregame talk with coach Larry Eustachy. The following Saturday the Golden Eagles (Jan. 21) the Golden Eagles host the Marshall Thundering Herd at Green Coliseum. That game will be televised by CSS and tip-off at 5 p.m.
See you at the games. Southern Miss to the Top!