It looks like Southern Mississippi used its week off wisely.
Realizing his team normally isn't a bunch of sharpshooters, USM coach Larry Eustachy turned up the emphasis on rebounding. And it has seemed to have paid off, with two straight Conferfence USA wins, includng Saturday's 58-40 road domination of Tulane.
Southern Mississippi out-rebounded Tulane 44-19 and dominated in the paint. The Golden Eagles had 16 offensive rebounds and 18 second-chance points.
"I think that's what we zeroed in on the last three weeks," Eustachy told local media. "Ninety-eight percent of our success is when we miss, we've got to go get it. We've got to get 50 percent of our missed shots and we've been doing that. So we've been in games and winning games because of it."
The fact that forward Gary Flowers grabbed 10 rebounds wasn't surprising. But the shocker was guard Sai'Quon Stone plucking nine misses, including seven on the offensive boards.
Flowers feels that the aggressiveness must carry over if the Golden Eagles are to be a surprise team in February.
"I think it's my first time to experience something like that," Flowers said of total dominance in rebounds. "Just seeing how we won going to the glass like that makes the effort more up to par next time and we'll play even harder."
-The Jan. 30 victory over Tulane snapped a 10-game road conference losing streak for the Golden Eagles. It is also the first time that Southern Miss has won three straight games at Tulane since 1998-2000. The victory also is the first time USM has taken three straight wins on a league opponent's home court under head coach Larry Eustachy. The last time the Golden Eagles (12-8, 2-4) won three straight games on the road over one league opponent was under former coach James Green from 1997 to 2000 against the same Green Wave squad.
• USM shot just 37.3 percent from the field, but made 21-of-23 free throws (91.3 percent) and held Tulane to 28.2 field goal shooting (11-of-39).
• Southern Miss held an opponent to under 50 points for the first time since defeating Weber State last year, 68-49. The 40 points by Tulane (6-14, 1-6) were the lowest output by an opponent since Southern Miss held Belhaven to 38 in 2006.
February At A Glance: Next up for the Golden Eagles is a league game on Tuesday at Reed Green Coliseum against SMU that suddenly looks tough. The Mustangs are coming off a 70-60 win over Memphis on Saturday.
Quote To Note: "They didn't have their best player; (Kevin) Sims broke his wrist. There were a lot of factors. They missed a lot of open shots and we beat them on the boards. I don't think we're in their head. They had an off night, which we appreciate them having an off night."-USM guard Sai'Quon Stone on the win at Tulane.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SEASON RECAP: Southern Miss seems to be finding a second wind after an 0-3 start in conference play. Credit coach Larry Eustachy for not publicly criticizing his team, but instead recognizing that rebounding and defense gives his offensively inconsistent team a chance to win. The performance in the win at Tulane even surprised Eustachy, but it goes back to rebounding. "I thought we would struggle early having a week off, and we did," Eustachy said. "We preach that for every two shots we miss, we have to get one, and we did that (against Tulane)."
PLAYER ROTATION: Recent Starters-G Sai'Quon Stone, G R.L. Horton, F Gary Flowers, F Andre Stephens, G Angelo Johnson. Key Subs-G Maurice Bolden, F Torye Pelham, G Buchi Awaji.
IN FOCUS: Forward Gary Flowers has to step up and adjust to the fact he is USM's go-to guy. Flowers may have had 6 points and 10 rebounds as well as 4 blocked shots, but he also had 5 turneovers and shot poorly. Tulane consistently double-teamed Flowers, swarming him every time he caught the ball in or near the post. "A guy like Flowers can play a lot better," Eustachy told the Hattiesburg American. "He turned it over a little too much. He was losing it in practice all week. I expect a lot more from him."
-Angelo Johnson scored a career-high 20 points, including 13-of-13 free throws against Tulane.
• G Buchi Awaji tied his season-high of 13 points against Tulane, hitting on 5-of-8 attempts from the field.
• Coach Larry Eustachy praised the shooting of guards Angelo Johnson and buchi Awaji in the victory over Tulane. "(Awaji and Johnson) went 8-for-18, which we haven't come close to all year," Eustachy said. "They were 15-of-15 at the foul line. When you get good guard play like that, you're going to win."