HATTIESBURG, Miss. - Southern Miss used a dominating second half performance to run away from Drexel, 66-49, Friday night at Reed Green Coliseum.
With the win, the Golden Eagles improved to 13-2. It is the second time that they won 13 games before conference play (2011-12).
"The second half, we were able to create tempo with our press," said Southern Miss head coach Donnie Tyndall. "I thought our energy was good. They are a tough, physical team, and for us to outrebound them by 26 is surprising."
Aaron Brown led Southern Miss with 11 points and five rebounds. Michael Craig recorded his third straight double-double, scoring 10 points and grabbing a game-high 11 rebounds. Jerrold Brooks had 10 points, a season-high five rebounds and five assists and Jeremiah Eason added 10 points and four boards. Daveon Boardingham also had eight points and eight rebounds.
Southern Miss entered the second half with a 31-28 lead. Eason opened the second half with seven straight points and Brown drilled a three-pointer as the Golden Eagles scored the first 10 points of the half to take a 41-28 lead just 3:27 in. Drexel (8-5) bookended a Boardingham free throw between two baskets.
Neil Watson then scored eight straight points off of two free throws and two straight threes. After Rodney Williams made one-of-two free throws, Boardingham hit a jumper and Southern Miss scored eight straight points off of free throws to take its biggest lead of the game, 60-34, with 6:55 to play. The Golden Eagles would not look back the rest of the way.
Chris Fouch hit a three-pointer to start things off, but the Golden Eagles scored seven straight to take a 7-3 lead. But Fouch and Tavon Allen keyed the Dragons to a 9-0 run over the next 2:24 to take an 11-7 lead. Aaron Brown hit a driving layup to cut the deficit to two, but Allen drained a three to give Drexel its largest lead of the first half, 14-9, just 6:43 into the game.
However, four straight points from Michael Craig started the Black and Gold on an 11-0 run over the next 3:18, giving Southern Miss a 20-14 lead. But the Golden Eagles went almost six minutes without a field goal, as Drexel came back to take a 25-24 lead on a Frantz Massenat three-pointer with 3:51 to play in the half.
Brown then hit Matt Bingaya for a driving basket and Jerrold Brooks hit a three-pointer to give Southern Miss a 29-25 lead. But Massenat hit another three to cut it to one. Deonte Houston then connected with Boardingham on an alley-oop, and Southern Miss went into the half with a 31-28 lead.
Southern Miss shot just 35.2-percent (19-of-54) from the field and 26.7% (4-of-15) from three. But the Golden Eagles connected on 75.0-percent (24-of-32) from the field. Drexel was held to just 18-of-47 (38.3%) from the floor and 8-of-22 (36.4%) from three. It also shot just 29.4-percent (5-of-17) from the charity stripe. Southern Miss also dominated the boards, 52-to-24.
Allen led all scorers with 15 points and Fouch added 13.
Southern Miss opens conference play next Thursday, Jan. 9, when it travels to Denton, Texas to face North Texas.
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