Southern Miss' trademark defense appears to be back.
For the first time in conference play, the Golden Eagles limited an opponent to fewer than 60 points in a game and less than 40 percent field-goal shooting in a 67-54 win over Tulane on Jan. 29. Before league play started, Southern Miss did that on a regular basis.
"That was the best defensive effort we have had all league play," Southern Miss coach Larry Eustachy said. "(Tulane) hit their shots early, but we were putting a lot of pressure on them. Once they started missing their shots, we used our defense to generate the offense. I just thought that overall, we had a very well-played game."
Coming into the game, the Golden Eagles were the worst defensive teams statistically in Conference USA. No team allowed more points or a higher shooting percentage than the Golden Eagles.
"When we get away from (defending well), we tend to lose games, which has been happening," Southern Miss forward Gary Flowers. "We got away from our character. We've been giving up well over 50 percent, so we felt like we had to come out and stop that."
• 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
• at UAB, Feb. 2
Key Matchups: Among the cluster that is the top of Conference USA, this could be a separation game. Both teams are built around defense, though Southern Miss has struggled there in conference play. The matchup of UAB's Cameron Moore and Southern Miss' Gary Flowers could determine the outcome.
• 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 pulled down 13 rebounds against Tulane, his second-highest total of the season and first double-digit rebound game since Jan. 5.
• 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.