HATTIESBURG, Miss. - Southern Miss brushed off a slow start before taking control of the game, defeating Charlotte, 81-64, Sunday afternoon at Reed Green Coliseum.
The Golden Eagles, who improved to 21-3 and 8-1 in Conference USA, have won seven straight. It is their best start since the 1960-61 season when they started 22-2. They also snapped a 12-game losing streak to the 49ers (14-9, 5-5).
Jerrold Brooks led Southern Miss with 19 points. Michael Craig had 14 points and a game-high eight rebounds and Aaron Brown pitched in 13 points and five boards. Matt Bingaya and Deonte Houston added career-highs of seven rebounds and seven assists, respectively.
"The biggest key was our rebounding," said Southern Miss head coach Donnie Tyndall. "For us to win the rebounding battle by 12 (37-to-25) was critical. We were able to wear them down in the first half, causing some turnovers which enabled us to play in the open floor. We were very efficient offensively. That was a good outing, a good bounce back game heading into this road trip."
Southern Miss missed two shots and turned the ball over three times in its first five possessions as Charlotte grabbed a 9-2 lead in the first 3:32. However, the Golden Eagles tuned up the defensive pressure, forcing two straight turnovers that led to two baskets, on their way to a 13-0 run over the next four minutes.
After Terrence Williams then hit a lay-up, the teams traded three-pointers. Jeremiah Eason and Chip Armelin hit baskets for the Black and Gold and Eason went one-of-two from the line to push the lead to 23-14.
The teams traded baskets and Shawn Lester hit two-of-three from the line to cut the lead to 25-18 with 7:20 to play in the half. But a jumper by Craig send Southern Miss on a 12-0 run, capped off by a Watson three-pointer as the Golden Eagles went into halftime with a 41-22 lead.
Southern Miss kept the lead between 16 and 21 points for the first 15 minutes of the second half. However, with the Black and Gold ahead, 64-45, Charlotte went on an 11-2 run to cut the deficit to 10 points with 3:33 to play. But 49er head coach Alan Major was called for two technical with just under three minutes left. Brooks hit all four free throws, as Southern Miss scored nine straight to seal the victory.
The Golden Eagles shot 50.0-percent (25-of-50) from the floor, including 5-of-13 (38.5%) from three. Charlotte was held to just 41.8-percent (23-of-55) from the field and 34.6-percent (9-of-26) from three. Southern Miss also won the rebounding battle, 37-to-25.
Shawn Lester led all scorers with 20 points. Pierria Henry had 11 and Willie Clayton added 10.
Southern Miss begins a two-game road trip this Thursday, February 13, when it travels to Birmingham, Ala., to face UAB. Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m. CT and will be televised on CSS.
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