Feb. 2, 2010
HATTIESBURG, Miss. - Southern Miss used a 15-2 run in the second half, and then held off a late SMU rally to earn a 56-53 victory over the Mustangs in Conference USA action Tuesday night at Reed Green Coliseum.
The Golden Eagles have now won three straight conference games after dropping the first four. The win also snapped a nine-game losing streak in games decided by three-points or less.
"I've said it a lot that it's tough to keep giving that level of effort when you're not making baskets," said Southern Miss head coach Larry Eustachy. "We're very streaky. I like this team because that doesn't carry over to other parts of the game. And that's why we won. We played through the adversity, which is quite a compliment for a young team. But, it was a great win for us."
Junior Gary Flowers led the Black and Gold with 17 points and eight rebounds. Sophomore Angelo Johnson had 14 points and five rebounds, including hitting six key free throws in the last 1:29. Johnson has now connected on 19 straight free throws in the last two games. Senior Buchi Awaji added eight points and five rebounds.
Southern Miss (13-8, 3-4 C-USA) trailed 32-29 with 16:16 to play in the second half. But a three-pointer by Buchi Awaji and two by Angelo Johnson keyed a 15-2 run that ended with the Black and Gold holding a 52-42 lead with 1:29 to play.
A jumper by Derek Williams, followed by two free throws from Frank Otis cut the lead to six. Johnson connected on two free throws of his own to push the lead back to 54-46 with 1:01 to play. But two jumpers by Papa Dia followed by Williams' fourth three of the night pulled SMU (10-11, 3-4) to within one, 54-53, with ten seconds to play.
Gary Flowers was fouled on the ensuing in-bounds play, but missed both free throws. SMU seemed to grab the rebound, but Kenneth Ortiz got his hand in the pile, knocking the ball to R.L. Horton, who gave it to Johnson. Johnson was fouled and hit both free throws, extending the Golden Eagle lead to 56-53 with four second remaining.
SMU had one final chance to tie the game, but Williams' desperation three came up short.
The game started out with SMU getting two quick three's from Williams and Robert Nyakundi. With the Mustangs ahead 6-2, Southern Miss scored five straight to take its only lead of the half 5:32 into the game. SMU hit two jumpers, but Gary Flowers' first three-pointer tied the game at 10.
However, Southern Miss missed its next 10 shots over the next 6:21. But the Mustangs were not much better as they were only able to score six points in that span.
The teams traded baskets for the next two minutes, until SMU went on an 8-2 run to take its biggest lead of the game at 27-19 with 1:18 to play in the half. But a three-pointer by Awaji, followed by a tip-in from Josimar Ayarza with five seconds left pulled the Golden Eagles to within 27-24 at the break.
The Golden Eagles were just 38.8-percent from the floor, while SMU connected on 43.5-percent. However, the Golden Eagles, who came into tonight averaging 14.0 turnovers a game, only turned the ball over nine times.
Southern Miss begins a two-game road trip this Saturday when they face Houston. Tip-off is scheduled for 5:00 p.m. CT and will be televised on CSS.