Feb. 25, 2012
HATTIESBURG, Miss. - Jonathan Mills connected on two free throws with 0.6 seconds left to give Southern Miss a 58-56 victory and hand head coach Larry Eustachy his 400th career victory, Saturday night at Reed Green Coliseum.
With the victory Southern Miss improved to 23-6 overall and 10-4 in Conference USA. The 23 wins tied the most wins since joining Division I and it's just the second time since joining C-USA that it won at least 10 conference games.
Mills was just one rebound away from his fourth straight double-double, scoring 11 points and grabbing nine boards. Neil Watson had a team-high 13 points to along with four rebounds and four assists. Maurice Bolden had 10 points and eight rebounds and Rashard McGill added nine points and five boards.
"It was (a great win)," said Eustachy. "The players were really happy for what we accomplished. Rice deserved to win as much as we did. They played their hearts out. We only shot 32-percent. That just proves that you can shoot as bad as you want, but if you have the toughness and the manhood, you can still win. I kept challenging (the team), and they stepped up. They really did."
Southern Miss led 29-21 at the half. Rice scored the first six points of the second half. A jumper by Bolden made it a four-point game. However, jumpers by Arsalan Kazemi and Lucas Kuipers tied the game at 31. The Golden Eagles twice retook the lead, but a Dylan Ennis three-pointer gave Rice its first lead since 8-6 in the first half.
Two free throws by Kazemi followed, and the teams traded baskets. Southern Miss tied it at 40, but the Owls retook the lead. A three-pointer by Angelo Johnson gave USM a 43-42 lead, but five straight points by Ennis gave a 47-43 lead with 7:17 to play.
However, the Golden Eagles scored went on a 9-2 run to take a 52-49 lead. But, Kazemi scored five straight for Rice to give them a 54-52 lead with 3:41 remaining.
A free throw by Johnson, followed by a three-point play by Watson put Southern Miss ahead 56-64. But Rice tied it with 1:23 remaining to set-up the final play.
Southern Miss opened the game with a Watson runner in the lane, but Rice scored eight of the next 10 points. However, the Golden Eagles went on a 9-0 run to take 13-8 lead midway through the half.
Rice pulled to within 15-12, but USM scored eight straight to take a 20-12 lead. With 6:24 to play. The teams kept trading baskets as the Owls kept it a six-point game. But Bolden hit two-straight jumpers to give Southern Miss its largest lead of the game, 29-19.
Ennis recorded a double-double with a game-high 18 points and 10 rebounds. Kazemi added 17 points and nine boards.
Southern Miss connected on just 32.8-percent (19-of-58) from the field and just 21.4-percent (3-of-14) from three-point range. But the Golden Eagles were 17-of-24 (70.8%) from the free throw line. Rice was 21-of-49 (42.9%) from the floor, but were just 5-of-20 (25.0%) from three and 9-of-13 (69.2%) from the charity stripe. The Black and Gold also outrebounded the Owls, 43-to-31.
Southern Miss returns to the hardwood next Wednesday, February 29, for Senior Night when it hosts SMU. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. CT.
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