Dec. 15, 2009
HATTIESBURG, Miss. - Josimar Ayarza was almost perfect shooting and Gary Flowers helped Southern Miss start strong in leading the Golden Eagles to a 71-53 non-conference basketball victory over Louisiana-Lafayette Tuesday night at Reed Green Coliseum.
The Golden Eagles (7-1) continued their hot start to begin the year and have equaled their best eight-game start since the 2006-07 campaign. Southern Miss also swept the season series with UL-Lafayette in the process, after defeating them on the road in the season opener, 79-72, and has now won four straight over the Ragin' Cajuns.
Ayarza led the Golden Eagles with a season-high 18 points, while Flowers posted a 14-point, 11-rebound night for his second straight double-double. The Cajuns got 16 points from Chris Gradnigo, while Tyren Johnson added 14 points, all in the second half, and Ryan McCoy chipped in 12.
"This was a good win for us tonight," said Southern Miss head coach Larry Eustachy. Defensively, we were really good in our man-to-man. We were getting back into the game and stopping them. Both teams are much better than when we first met."
Although the Golden Eagles converted just 11-of-35 shots in the opening half, Flowers put the team on his back over the first 20 minutes as he converted 5-of-10 tries from the floor and had seven of the team's 31 first-half rebounds.
Southern Miss' defense also proved to be stingy as they held an opponent to its fewest first half points this season of 17 on just 5-of-30 shooting. USM limited the visitors from UL to just 33-percent for the game as they managed making just 20-of-60 shots.
Ayarza, who hit both of his shots in the opening half and converted a free throw in the first half, hit his first four shots of the second half and finished the evening 6-of-7 from the field while hitting all five free throws.
The Golden Eagles, who led by 12 at intermission, 29-17, extended the advantage to as much as 21 points at 61-40 with 4:55 to play. With 3:04 to play and up 63-46, Eustachy emptied his bench and the reserves built the lead by one more point over the remainder of the game.
The Cajuns fell to 3-5 and had a two-game winning streak snapped.
The Golden Eagles enjoy the remainder of the week off, before returning back to action for three-straight days next Monday when they host the South Mississippi Christmas Classic in Gulfport, Miss. Southern Miss opens the tournament with New Orleans in a 7 p.m. contest.