Dec. 23, 2009
GULFPORT, Miss. - Southern Miss made a valiant comeback attempt try but it was too late, as it dropped a 53-46 decision to North Florida in the final game of the South Mississippi Christmas Classic held in Gulfport, Miss. The Golden Eagles finished the Classic with a 1-2 record.
Southern Miss (8-3) has now lost consecutive games for the first time this season.
''You have to bottom out at some time,'' Southern Miss coach Larry Eustachy said. ''We have definitely bottomed out. I think the guys are worn out mentally. We lost two games. But this might be what we needed.''
Southern Miss was down 43-29 with 5:42 to play. The Golden Eagles scored five straight points to pull within single digits before UNF (4-7) made it an 11-point lead. But R.L Horton's two three-pointers propelled Southern Miss to a 12-4 run, pulling to within 48-46 with 34-seconds to play. However, the Ospreys scored the final five points for the final decision.
From the opening tip, the Black and Gold was sluggish. They were held without a point for the first 6:11 of the game, missing their first eight shots. A jumper by Josimar Ayarza finally put them on the board. North Florida then scored 11 of the next 15 points, bookended by three-pointers from Germaine Sparkes and Eni Cuka for a 16-6 UNF advantage with 8:01 to play in the half.
Southern Miss got back to within five points on a Maurice Bolden lay-up with 3:16 to play, but the Ospreys scored the final six points of the half to hold a 24-13 lead at the break.
The 13 points were the fewest in a half since scoring 12 against Cincinnati in 2002. It is also the sixth fewest in a half ever.
The Golden Eagles tried to get back into it in the second half, opening on a 10-2 run over the first 5:20 to make it 26-23. However, with North Florida ahead 29-26, the Ospreys went on a 14-3 run of their own to take a 43-29 advantage with 5:42 to play, its largest lead of the game.
Junior Gary Flowers recorded his fifth straight double-double, tying a season-high with 20 points and pulling down 12 rebounds. Junior R.L. Horton added nine points and five rebounds.
Brad Haugabrook led North Florida with 11 points and four rebounds. Stan Januska added nine points and six boards.
Southern Miss will take a week off before returning to the court when they host Dillard on Dec. 30. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.