Jan. 28, 2012Neil Watson scored a career-high 23 points and Darnell Dodson also had a career-high 22 to lead Southern Miss to a 78-65 victory over UCF, Saturday night at UCF Arena.
It was the first-ever win for Southern Miss at UCF and it snapped the Knights 16-game home winning streak. The Golden Eagles improve to 19-3, 6-1 in Conference USA, while UCF fell to 15-6, 5-3.
Watson, who hit four-of-seven three-pointers, added six assists and Dodson pulled down a game-high eight rebounds. Angelo Johnson scored nine points and Jonathan Mills added seven points and six boards.
"This was our best played game of the year," said head coach Larry Eustachy. "They played with the identity that I have been looking for all year. We wanted the ball around the basket because it is a higher percentage shot and eventually, it will work its way back to the top. This was a great win, but we're not even halfway through the conference season yet."
Southern Miss took an early 11-6 lead after a three-pointer by Watson 5:13 into the game. However, the Golden Eagles went cold, as they went scoreless for nearly seven minutes. During that time, UCF scored 14 straight points to take a 20-1 lead with 7:54 to play.
The teams traded baskets, before a jumper by Watson and a tip-in by Cedric Jenkins pulled USM to within five points. But UCF scored the next seven points to take its biggest lead of the game, 31-19, with 3:03 to play in the first half.
That's when Southern Miss began to make its move. Dodson hit two free throws to pull within 10. After a UCF turnover, Johnson nailed a three-pointer to make it a seven-point game. Watson hit one-of-two free throws, and Dodson followed by picking off a pass by Kasey Wilson and going in for the lay-up.
The Black and Gold forced another turnover with 16 seconds left, and Dodson drilled a three-pointer at the buzzer to cap off an 11-0 run, as Southern Miss went into halftime down just 31-30.
Southern Miss tied the game four times in the first 2:32 of the first half. Watson then nailed a three-pointer, giving the Golden Eagles the lead for good. Keith Clanton made a jumper to make it a one point lead, but a three-point play by Dodson propelled Southern Miss to a 16-5 run, as they took a 59-47 lead with 8:40 to play. UCF would get no closer than seven points.
Clanton led UCF with 21 points and six rebounds. Marcus Jordan scored 11 points and Tristan Spurlock added eight rebounds.
The Golden Eagles shot 46.4-percent (26-of-56) from the field and were 7-of-21 from three-point range. UCF was 22-of-55 (40.0%) from the floor and connected on just 28.6-percent (4-of-14) from three. Southern Miss outrebounded the Knights 35-to-33, and held a big advantage off the bench, as they outscored UCF, 51-to-10.
Southern Miss returns home next Wednesday, February 1, when it hosts Memphis. Tip-off is set for 7:15 p.m. CT and will be nationally-televised on CBS Sports Network.
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