HATTIESBURG, Miss. – Five Golden Eagles scored double-figures as Southern Miss defeated Rice, 84-62, Thursday night at Reed Green Coliseum.
Michael Craig led all scorers with 16 points, seven rebounds and three assists. Aaron Brown had 15 points and tied a career-high with eight rebounds. Neil Watson had 12 points and six assists and Daveon Boardingham had 10 points, eight rebounds and a career-high five assists. Chip Armelin added 10 points.
“I thought we wore them down late in the game,” said Southern Miss head coach Donnie Tyndall. “We knew that they could shoot the ball, but I thought we did a pretty good job in getting to the catch. We did a good job rebounding, as seen by us outrebounding them by 23. Our guards did a good job of rebounding down and that led us to getting in the open floor.”
Rice (5-11, 0-3) started the scoring as Austin Ramljak drained a three from the left corner. Jeremiah Eason then hit a layup and one-of-two free throws to tie the game. Matt Bingaya made a jumper and Watson found Boardingham for an alley-oop for a 7-3 lead 3:04 into the game.
Max Guercy then drained a three, but Watson hit a three of his own. Watson then forced a steal and hit Aaron Brown with a baseball pass for a dunk and Boardingham made two foul shots.
Marcus Jackson then hit a three for Rice, but Armelin scored seven straight points to give Southern Miss a 21-9 lead midway through the first half.
Andrew Drone hit an open dunk for Rice’s first two-point field goal of the game, but Michael Craig hit two baskets and Eason made one-of-two foul shots to give the Golden Eagles (15-3, 2-1) their largest lead of the half, 26-11, with 7:43 to play.
However, Southern Miss went cold from the floor and Rice started to chip away at the deficit. Guercy bookended a pair of threes between two Boardingham free throws to cut the deficit to 11. Boardingham then hit three-of-four foul shots, but the Owls went on a 9-1 run to cut the lead to six. Craig Southern Miss’ first field goal in almost nine minutes, but Sean obi hit a jumper to send Rice into the break down just 34-28.
The second half began with the teams trading baskets through the first five minutes. With Southern Miss leading 49-36, Ramljak hit a jumper and Guercy nailed a three to cut the deficit to 49-41. But, Armelin hit a three and Craig made a jumper to push the lead back to 13. Keith Washington then hit a jumper and made one-of-two free throws to cut the deficit to 10.
Watson found a Craig for a jumper, but Nizar Kapic hit a three to make it a 56-47 game with 10:55 to play. Brown then scored five straight points and Jerrold Brooks hit a three to push the lead to 64-47 with 9:33 to play.
The teams went back-and-forth over the next five minutes before Southern Miss blew the game open with a 12-0 run.
The Golden Eagles shot 28-of-54 (51.9%) from the floor and hit a season-high 10-of-20 (50.0%) from three, including 68.9% (9-of-13) in the second half. Rice was 24-of-55 (43.6%) from the field and 12-of-34 (35.3%) from behind the arc.
Southern Miss shot 69.2-percent (18-of-26) from the charity stripe while holding Rice to just 2-of-6. The Black and Gold also outrebounded the Owls, 43-to-20.
Southern Miss returns to the hardwood this Sunday, January 19, when it hosts Louisiana Tech in a nationally-televised tilt. Tip-off is scheduled for 12 p.m. CT and will be televised on Fox Sports 1.