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Watson Leads Southern Miss Past UAB, 79-75

Michael Craig had 16 points and 10 rebounds off the bench.

Feb. 2, 2013

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Southern Miss placed four players in double-figures as it held on to defeat UAB, 79-75, Saturday night at Bartow Arena.

The Golden Eagles won their 10th straight game, as they improved to 18-4 overall and 7-0 in Conference USA. It is the best conference start in school history. They also swept the season series from UAB for the first time since 2007.

Neil Watson led all players with 24 points and four assists. Watson, who was playing on his 22nd birthday, was 7-of-7 from the field, including 6-of-6 from three, while hitting 4-of-5 free throws. Michael Craig came off the bench to record his first career double-double, scoring 16 points and grabbing a game-high 10 rebounds. Jerrold Brooks had 16 points and Dwayne Davis added 10.

"Any win on the road is great," said Southern Miss head coach Donnie Tyndall. "That was a battle. We could've crumbled but we just stayed the course. We made big shot after big shot. I'm very proud of my team.

Southern Miss led 41-33 at the half. Preston Purifoy opened the half to cut the lead to five, but Watson responded with a three of his own. Robert Williams hit a layup, buy Watson answered with a layup and a three-pointer to give Southern Miss a 49-38 lead just 4:32 into the half.

UAB came right back, scoring seven straight points to cut the deficit to four, but a three from Watson triggered seven straight points to push the lead back to 11 halfway through the second half.

The teams traded baskets over the next two minutes. With Southern Miss leading by 10, the Blazers went on a 7-2 run to cut the deficit to five points. But a three-point play by Craig pushed it back to eight, 65-57, with 6:33 to play.

The teams again traded baskets over the next four minutes. Following two free throws from Williams, Jordan Swing stepped in front of a pass and went in for an uncontested dunk to cut the lead to 71-69, with 1:49.

Following a Southern Miss timeout, Brooks came off a screen and nailed his second three-pointer of the day. But Williams answered right back with a three of his own. But Brooks found Craig under the basket, who laid it up for a four-point lead with 41 seconds left.

Southern Miss then forced a turnover, forcing UAB to foul, and Watson hit both shots from the charity stripe, increasing the lead to six. After Swing missed a three-pointer, Watson got the rebound and was fouled. But he missed the front end of a one-and-one, and Quincy Taylor drained a three-pointer with seven seconds left to cut it to a three-point game. But Jonathan Mills was fouled on the ensuing possession, and he hit one-of-two free throws to ice the game.

UAB got the tip and immediately scored on a Purifoy layup. Southern Miss then scored seven straight points, capped by a Brooks three-pointer. Following a pair of UAB free throws, the teams traded baskets before Purifoy's three-pointer cut the deficit to 12-10 just 4:31 into the game. Brooks and Craig pushed the lead to six after a pair of jumpers, but two Purifoy free throws made it 16-12.

However, Watson and Davis drilled consecutive three-pointers as the Golden Eagles went on an 8-0 run to take a 24-12 lead with 11:30 to play in the first half.

The Blazers cut the lead to seven, but Davis' second trey pushed the lead back to 10. Rod Rucker converted a three-point play to cut the deficit to seven points. But Craig hit one-of-two free throws and Davis and Watson hit a jumper and three-pointer, respectively, as Southern Miss took its largest lead of the half, 33-20, with 5:10 to play in the first half.

But UAB started to chip away at the lead. Following a Swing three-pointer, Craig slammed home Watson's alley-oop. After a Taylor three and Swing jumper, Watson hit a pair of free throws. But Taylor hit his third three-pointer of the half to cut the deficit to 37-31 with 2:20 to play in the half.

The teams traded baskets, and Craig converted a layup with 17 seconds left to send Southern Miss into halftime with a 41-33 lead.

UAB placed five players in double-figures, led by Swing with 17 points. Taylor had 15 points and five assists and Williams had 14 points and six rebounds. Fahro Alihodzic added 12 points and seven rebounds.

Southern Miss connected on 63.8-percent (30-of-47) from the field, including a season-high 58.8-percent (10-of-17) from three-point range. UAB was 23-of-52 (44.2%) and 12-of-29 (41.4%) from three. The Golden Eagles also outrebounded the Blazers, 30-to-22.

Southern Miss closes its road swing next Wednesday, Feb. 6, when it travels to Orlando, Fla., to face UCF. Tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m. CT.

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