Look who has the most wins in Conference USA.
The Golden Eagles (6-3) played with heart, character and intensity in a tough building against a quality UAB team on Wednesday night and came out with a 75-71 win. They deserve to be where they are in the conference standings.
Southern Miss, which has now won three straight, is athletic and quick and plays with a lot of energy. The Golden Eagles also play solid defense, making it tough on the opponent to get the ball in the paint. The Golden Eagles turned 13 turnovers into 18 points against UAB and withstood some hot shooting from the Blazers.
UAB's Dexter Fields made 8 of 11 triples, but the Golden Eagles still won the game on the road.
Now they have a score to settle on Saturday against a very talented and experienced Marshall team. The Thundering Herd pounded the Golden Eagles 95-65 on Jan. 8. It was an ugly game all around for the Golden Eagles, who made just 1 of 16 three-pointers while Marshall shot 54 percent from the floor.
But Southern Miss is playing a lot better, especially on the defensive end. It also is playing with a lot of confidence. Then again the Golden Eagles were playing well-winners of seven of eight-the last time they played Marshall.
Beyond The Box Score: The Golden Eagles are doing well on offense as a result of their defense. On Jan. 29, Tulane came out and shot the ball well despite good defense from Southern Miss. Soon, the good defense began to pay off as the Green Wave started missing while the defense created easy baskets at the other end. Same script on Feb. 2 against the Blazers, who shot the lights out to start the game and finished 12 of 22 from behind the three-point line. But Southern Miss scored 18 points off of 13 turnovers and outrebounded the home team 36-22. Still, defending the three-point line will certainly be a topic of conversation before Marshall comes to town on Feb. 5.
• UAB's Dexter Fields nailed six triples in the first half on Feb. 2, but Southern Miss scored the last six points to take a 38-37 lead into the break. In the second half, the Golden Eagles tightened up the defense on the long ball, built a 63-50 lead and then held on for a 75-71 victory over the host Blazers. The Golden Eagles have now won three straight and improved to 6-3 in Conference USA-just the second time Southern Miss has had a winning record at the midway point of conference play. Fields finished with a game-high 24 points, knocking down 8 of 11 three-point attempts. But the Golden Eagles (17-3 overall) also forced 13 turnovers and outrebounded the Blazers 36-22. Gary Flowers had 22 points for the Golden Eagles, who host Marshall on Saturday. The Thundering Herd beat Southern Miss 95-65 on Jan. 8.
• Southern Miss is one of the top rebounding teams in Conference USA. That was never more apparent than in the games the Golden Eagles played against East Carolina and Tulane. They outrebounded the opponent by 16 in each game.
• The student section at East Carolina seemed to get under the skin of Southern Miss coach Larry Eustachy. Back in 2003, as the coach of Iowa State, Eustachy posed in controversial photographs, drinking with students. The coach and ECU students exchanged words Jan. 26 during the emotional game, according to the Daily Reflector. Said Eustachy to the Daily Reflector: "It got me fired up. It's been eight years since I've had a drink, and you'd think you'd left that behind you, but students are students."
By The Numbers: 6-Southern Miss players who scored in double figures against East Carolina, the Golden Eagles' most balanced performance of the season through Jan. 30.
Quote To Note: "This is the sweetest win I've had in a long, long time. We were not going to be denied. They showed me the character I knew they had."-Southern Miss coach Larry Eustachy, following his team's win at East Carolina.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
• vs. Marshall, Feb. 5
Key Matchups: The Golden Eagles must be guard against being overly emotional about this rematch. Earlier this season, Marshall handed Southern Miss an embarrassing 30-point loss. A better shooting night this time could go a long way toward a win for Southern Miss.
Futures Market: Southern Miss turned in its best defensive performance of the Conference USA portion of the season in its win over Tulane. Over the next couple weeks, the Golden Eagles' defensive resurgence will be tested by some of the best offensive teams in the league.
• Senior F Gary Flowers came up big on both ends of the floor in the win over UAB. He had a team-high 22 points on 7 of 18 shooting. With the Golden Eagles leading 70-67, Flowers hit a nice turn-around shot off the glass with the shot clock winding down to push the lead to five points late in the game. He also played great defense, holding UAB's Cameron Moore to just three points and no field goals.
• Senior G R.L. Horton continues to play outstanding basketball for the Golden Eagles. He hit a couple of big baskets down the stretch Feb. 2 against UAB and finished with 14 points on 6 of 15 shooting. He also had five rebounds and only one turnover in 36 minutes.
• Junior G Angelo Johnson had scored in double figures in three of four games through Jan. 30, his most consistent stretch of scoring this season. In the fourth game, he scored nine.