Jan. 20, 2012*Written by the 'Voice of the Golden Eagles' John Cox | From the Booth Central
It has been an amazing start to the 2011-2012 basketball season for Coach Larry Eustachy and the Southern Miss Golden Eagles. Without question, they have a great opportunity to be right in the thick of things in the battle for the Conference USA championship this season.
Although the Conference USA race is only about a quarter of the way through, the Golden Eagles have a 16-3 overall record and are 3-1 in the league, just a game behind league-leading Marshall, who is 4-0 in the league, and travels to Reed Green Coliseum for a matchup with the the Golden Eagles on Saturday afternoon at 5 p.m.
The game between the Golden Eagles and the Thundering Herd is only the 12th meeting between the two teams with Marshall holding a 6-5 edge in the series. Last season, the two teams split a pair of games, with Marshall winning 95-65 in Huntington, W. Va., and the Golden Eagles winning at home, 67-60.
The 16-3 start by the Golden Eagles is one of the best in school history and the best start since the 1990-91 team, coached By M.K. Turk, started the season by winning 17 of its first 19 games. That team led by Clarence Weatherspoon, Darrin Chancellor, Daron Jenkins and Russell Johnson won the Metro Conference regular season championship and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for just the second time.
The best start in school history was accomplished by the 1960-61 squad under coach Fred Lewis, when they came out of the blocks by winning their first 11 games before losing at Memphis. They then won their next eight games before losing again. That gave the Southerners (as they were known then) a 19-1 start as they went on to finish the season 23-3.
Two other Southern Miss teams, in addition to the 1990-91 squad, were able to open the season by winning 17 of their first 19 games. The 1959-60 team, coached by Lewis, did it and went on to finish the year with a dazzling 23-2 record, winning its last 15 games of the season. The 1953-54 squad accomplished that feat with a 23-8 record and advancing to the NAIA National Tournament in Kansas City. The 1953-54 team was coached by Lee Floyd in what turned out to be the final season of his first tenure at Southern Miss and was led by Nick Revon.
Four teams won 15 of their first 19 games; the 1967-68 team under Floyd in his second tenure as head coach and which finished the year 19-6; the 1980-81 team coached by Turk that finished 20-7 and made the school's first ever appearance in the NIT; the 1987-88 squad coached by Turk that ended 19-11 and also played in the NIT; and the 2000-2001 squad coached by James Green that shared the C-USA regular season title that year with Cincinnati, and played in the NIT with a 23-9 finish.
Junior guard LaShay Page (Dillon, S.C.) is off to a tremendous start this year for the Golden Eagles and has quickly established himself as one of the best 3-point shooters in not only Conference USA but the country as well. Page, who is first in C-USA in three-pointers made, has 55 this season which is already the 10th most in a single season for a Golden Eagle and the fourth-most by a junior. He is averaging 2.9 three-pointers per game and has an outside chance to catch Bernard Haslett, who in 1993-94 connected on a school-record 112 3-pointers.
Haslett also has the second-most 3-pointers in a season when he made 109 during the 1992-1993 campaign. With 88 three-pointers in his career, Page is already nearing the top 10 in that category and is already being compared to some of the best long range shooters in school history like Haslett, Casey Fisher, Jimmy Floyd, David Wall and former teammate R.L. Horton.
Earlier this season, Page hit eight of 11 three-pointers in a win at Colorado State which tied for the third most in a game by a Golden eagle and had six threes in a win at home against East Carolina and a road win at McNeese State.
Next week, the Golden Eagles hit the road for a two-game road trip that takes them to East Carolina and UCF. Southern Miss and ECU meet for the second time this season, Wed., Jan. 25, in Greenville, N.C., and then meet the UCF Knights on Saturday, Jan. 28, in Orlando. Normally the Golden Eagles would return home after the Wednesday game at ECU, but because of the short time between games and travel, they will stay in Greenville after the game against the Pirates and practice there on Thursday before flying to Orlando on Friday to prepare for the Saturday game with UCF.
Hope to have you tuned in to the Southern Miss IMG Sports Network for all of the action of the upcoming games. Our broadcasts, as always, start 30-minutes before tip-off and our pre-game Courtside Show always includes the Inside Scoop, the Conference USA Notebook and the Eustachy Report.
See you at Green Coliseum for the Marshall game and "Southern Miss-To the Top!"