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Southern Miss Holds off UCF, 78-74

Jonathan Mills scored 18 points and had eight rebounds.

Jonathan Mills scored 18 points and had eight rebounds.

Feb. 11, 2012

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HATTIESBURG, MISS. - Jonathan Mills led a group of four Golden Eagles in double-figures, as Southern Miss held on to sweep the season series from UCF, 78-74, Saturday afternoon at Reed Green Coliseum.

With the victory, Southern Miss improves to 12-0 at home. It is 21-4 on the season, 8-2 in Conference USA while UCF falls to 18-7 and 7-4 in conference play.

Mills led the Golden Eagles with 18 points and eight rebounds, including hitting 12-of-13 from the free throw line. Neil Watson scored 15 points on 11-of-12 free throw shooting, and added eight assists and seven rebounds. LaShay Page scored 15 points and grabbed seven boards while Torye Pelham added 12 points.

"It was a great win," said head coach Larry Eustachy. "I thought we showed a lot of guts after (UCF) took the lead. We were tough enough to make the plays to earn the win. A lot of guys stepped up, even though I think we can play a lot better. Coming off a tough loss at UAB, our guys showed a ton of character tonight."

Southern Miss led 37-27 at halftime. The Knights scored the first six points of the second half to pull within four points. A pair of jumpers by Pelham and Bolden pushed it to eight, but UCF came right back, pulling to within two points, 45-43, 6:37 into the half.

The Black and Gold scored six straight points to make it 51-43. However, it went over five minutes without a point, as UCF went on an 11-0 run, capped off by a three-pointer by A.J. Rompza that gave the Knights their first lead, 54-51 with seven minutes to play.

But Mills took over, outscoring UCF 9-1 himself over the next 1:26 as Southern Miss took a 60-55 lead. UCF tried to come back, pulling to within three points five times in the final five minutes. But the Golden Eagles hit 15-of-19 free throws in the final five minutes to stem the rally.

The game began as a fast-paced affair, as both teams hit four of their first six shots. With the score tied at eight, Southern Miss went on an 11-2 run capped by a Page three-pointer to take a 19-10 lead midway through the first half.

But, UCF responded with eight straight points to pull to within 19-18 with 7:36 to play in the half. The Knights kept it to a three-point game for most of the half. However, the Golden Eagles closed the half on an 11-4 run to take the 10-point advantage at halftime.

UCF was led by Isaiah Sykes, who recorded a double-double with 27 points and 10 rebounds. Marcus Jordan was the only other Knight in double-figures, scoring 12 points.

Southern Miss shot 45.1-percent (23-of-51) from the field and was just 3-of-8 (37.5%) from three-point range. UCF connected on 52.7-percent (29-of-55) from the floor, but was just 4-of-16 (25.0%) from three. USM held a big advantage at the free throw line hitting 78.4-percent (29-of-37) of its shots from the charity stripe, while UCF was just 12-of-22 (54.4%) from the line.

Southern Miss closes its two-game homestand next Wednesday, February 15, when it hosts Tulsa. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. CT.

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