With 35.5 seconds left in the Feb. 16 game, Devonta Newbill was fouled, and the Southern Miss crowd jumped to its feet in celebration. The Golden Eagles had locked up an impressive win over UTEP.
It was only fitting that Newbill was center stage during the ovation. The freshman guard played perhaps his best game of his young career in a game Southern Miss had to have.
Newbill finished with 15 points and 16 rebounds, and he seemed to be in the middle of the action all night long.
But this was a total team effort by the Golden Eagles. Newbill, Gary Flowers, R.L. Horton and Angelo Johnson all scored in double figures, and all hit big shots in the last 10 minutes of the game. Southern Miss did a solid job in the second half of working the ball around and looking for the best shot. When the Golden Eagles forced it, they missed. But when they took their time, they got good looks and knocked most of them down or drew fouls.
The Golden Eagles, whose four-game winning streak was snapped by Memphis on Feb. 12, appear to be back on track with lowly East Carolina coming to town on Feb. 19. The Pirates are really struggling and have been outrebounded 83-40 in their last two games-and the Golden Eagles lead the league in rebounding.
The Golden Eagles, who also are tops in the conference in scoring, are just a half-game behind first-place Memphis in the Conference USA standings.
Beyond The Box Score: The Golden Eagles shot down a little bit of history with their big win against UTEP. Coming into the Feb. 16 game, UTEP was 11-4 against Southern Miss. The Miners had won the last four meetings and 11 of the last 13.
• With 10:27 to play in the Feb. 16 game, Newbill came flying down the middle of the lane, grabbed the ball off the rim with one hand and slammed it through to cut UTEP's lead to 42-39. A steal and layup by Horton on the next play cut the deficit to 42-41, and from that point on, the Golden Eagles were golden. The Newbill dunk not only got the home folks on their feet, but it sent Southern Miss to another level, and UTEP couldn't keep up. The Golden Eagles (19-6, 8-4 Conference USA) went on to post a 64-51 win.
Down 41-28 at one point, the Golden Eagles went on an impressive 28-7 run to take a 55-49 lead with 4:04 to play. A 3-pointer by Horton with 2:41 to play gave Southern Miss a 58-50 lead. Southern Miss outrebounded UTEP 33-23 and held the Miners (19-6, 7-3) to 42 percent shooting and just 3-of-10 shooting from beyond the arc. Horton had 20 points, and Newbill finished with 15 points and 16 rebounds.
• For the second time this season, Southern Miss forward Gary Flowers was named Conference USA Player of the Week. He averaged 21 points, eight rebounds and two blocks in wins over UAB and Marshall.
• R.L. Horton had lost his shooting touch in consecutive games through Feb. 12. He scored only two points in each of those games, well below his season average of 11 points per game. He had only one foul in those games combined.
By The Numbers: 16-Consecutive losses that Southern Miss had suffered at the hands of Memphis after the Tigers' Feb. 12 win.
Quote To Note: "It's real frustrating. I hate losing, our team hates losing, and our coach, he really hates losing. We felt like we had the game plan down. They made the plays at the end, and it got away from us. It's extremely hurtful."-Southern Miss freshman D.J. Newbill, on the loss to Memphis.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
• vs. East Carolina, Feb. 19
Key Matchups: East Carolina's defense had no answer for the offense of Southern Miss last month. The Golden Eagles shot 54 percent from the 3-point line, 55 percent from the field and 80 percent from the line when these teams played on Jan. 26. Southern Miss should be licking its chops.
Futures Market: Southern Miss might have lost a big game to Memphis, but it still has key games left against UCF and UAB. The Golden Eagles already beat UAB this season at home.
• Senior F Gary Flowers finished with 13 points on 6-of-14 shooting, grabbed four boards and blocked four shots in 36 minutes Feb. 16 against UTEP. He gave the Golden Eagles their first lead when he banked in a nice turnaround jumper with 7:12 to play and completed a three-point play. Flowers came into the game second in Conference USA in scoring (19.9 points per game), fourth in 3-point field-goal percentage (.438), fifth in blocks (1.7) and seventh in rebounding (7.6).
• There were plenty of game balls to give out on Feb. 16, and Angelo Johnson certainly deserved one of them. The junior guard had 11 points on 4-of-8 shooting, grabbed five rebounds and dished out six assists. After Randy Culpepper nailed a tough 3-pointer to give UTEP a 45-41 lead, Johnson knocked one in from the top of the key to answer at the other end. However, Johnson's biggest contribution was on defense, as he held Culpepper to 14 points on 5-of-16 shooting.