Southern Miss is having difficulty playing consistently good games.
The Golden Eagles came close Wednesday before falling in the final minutes against UAB. Southern Miss led from just over three minutes into the game until the final seconds, but it wasn't enough to earn the victory
USM (10-8, 0-4) is still looking for its first Conference USA victory, and the slate doesn't get easier anytime soon. The Eagles host East Carolina on Saturday before traveling to visit Tulane on Jan. 30.
The longer the cloud of no conference wins hangs over the USM team, the more the pressure will build. The Eagles need to take care of business and get a league victory so they can concentrate on pulling themselves back into the conference race.
Until that first win is achieved, though, that will be the team's main focus, whether the Eagles want to admit it or not.
UAB 57, Southern Miss 56: The Golden Eagles saw a lead that lasted nearly the entire game fade in the game's final minutes. UAB (16-2, 4-0 CUSA) outscored Southern Miss 10-3 in the final 2:31 of the game-capped by Aaron Johnson's jumper with six seconds to play-to pull out the one-point victory. The Eagles had been up by as many as 14 in the second half after leading since early in the first half, but USM couldn't hang on to the lead. It looked as if the Eagles would earn their first road win since Dec. 12, but USM couldn't quite hold up at the end.
-In a 56-49 loss at UTEP on Jan. 16, Southern Miss never led, but it never trailed by more than six points in the first half. UTEP led by 13 points with 7:43 to play, yet Southern Miss twice pulled to within six points.
USM's players are still confident that victory is just around the corner. The recent close loss to Memphis and an 81-65 victory over Cal State Bakersfield on Jan. 13 has helped them keep the faith.
Coach Larry Eustachy is keeping his head up.
"I wouldn't be in this business for this long if I didn't know how to hold a team together," Eustachy told local media. "I think they're fragile, but they all have to be men and own up to mistakes."
• Until a Jan. 13 win over Cal State Bakersfield, it had been three weeks since USM had last beaten a Division I opponent, topping New Orleans 78-58 on Dec. 21.
• USM is 1-7 in El Paso against UTEP, with the only victory coming in 1950.
• USM sixth-year coach Larry Eustachy needs six more victories to record his 350th career win.
On The Spot: The Golden Eagles got 35 points from two players and 21 points from the other seven players who played against UAB, showing the lack of balance on the team this year. Gary Flowers and Maurice Bolden are the only USM players averaging in double figures. Teams will start to focus on stopping the duo and force the rest of the Eagles to beat them, if they can. The supporting cast must step up a few times to prove to future opponents that they can't be left alone.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Season Recap: This is a team that simply doesn't physically match up well against the elite teams of Conference USA. Because its conference schedule is top-loaded with road games, the Golden Eagles' confidence might be shot by the time it gets to a mid-February four-game homestand.
Player Rotation: Usual Starters-G Sai'Quon Stone, G R.L. Horton, G Angelo Johnson, F Gary Flowers, G Maurice Bolden. Key Subs-F Andre Stephens, F Josimar Ayarza, G Buchi Awaji, G LaVanne Pennington
Memphis 59, Southern Mississippi 57
Southern Mississippi 81, CS-Bakersfield 65
UTEP 56, Southern Mississippi 49
UAB 57, Southern Mississippi 56
vs. East Carolina, Saturday, Jan. 23
at Tulane, Saturday, Jan. 30
vs. SMU, Tuesday, Feb. 2
at Houston, Saturday, Feb. 6
In Focus: Though USM had 10 3-pointers in its Jan. 13 win over Cal State Bakersfield, opponents continue to play a lot of zone against the Golden Eagles, believing USM doesn't have the shooters to break down the defense.
"I'm not worried about the zone," coach Larry Eustachy said. "We've got shooters and guys that score."
USM guard Angelo Johnson agreed. "It's something (playing against zones) we've been working on," Jones said. "We've been seeing a lot of zone from a lot of teams because we're a fast-break team. When they go zone, we've been working against it better and we should get better and better."
• G R.L. Horton scored seven points in the loss to UAB, leaving him just 44 points shy of the 1,000-point career plateau.
• F Gary Flowers recorded his sixth double-double of the season Wednesday, tallying a season-high 25 points and 10 rebounds in the loss to UAB.
• G Angelo Johnson finished just one assist away from his career high with six assists in the loss to UAB.