HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WTVA/USM Athletics) – Southern Miss used a 25-2 run to close the first half on its way to a 73-54 victory over Houston in its Conference USA home opener, Saturday night at Reed Green Coliseum.
Southern Miss improved to (13-4) overall and is off to a (2-0) start in Conference USA for the second straight year. It was the Golden Eagles fifth straight win and 21st straight home win. It also set a new school record with their ninth straight conference home win. The victory snapped Houston’s seven game winning streak.
“We expected (the game) to be a back-and-forth affair, which is how it started out,” said Southern Miss head coach Donnie Tyndall. “(Houston) has a big, physical front line. But, I thought we had a great energy level. We did a good job of keeping them out of the paint, limiting their post touches and forcing them to take jump shots. But, our guys competed and I was pleased with our effort overall.”
Jerrold Brooks led all scorers with 16 points. Daveon Boardingham had 12 points and five rebounds and Norville Carey had 11 points. Jonathan Mills led all players with 10 rebounds.
The game started as a back-and-forth affair. Brooks got things started with a layup on Southern Miss’ first possession, but a jumper by TaShawn Thomas tied the game. Mills connected on two straight layups but a jumper by Joseph Young followed by a three-pointer from J.J. Thompson gave Houston (12-3, 1-1 C-USA) its first lead, 7-6, 3:37 into the game.
Dwayne Davis gave the Golden Eagle the lead with a three-pointer, but the Cougars tied it at nine. After a jumper from Davis, Houston took the lead, 13-11 with 9:58 remaining in the half, on a jumper from Leon Gibson and a pair of free throws from Young.
However, the Black and Gold stepped up its pressure. It retook the lead on a three-pointer from Brooks, who also hit a layup after a UH turnover. Cedric Jenkins then hit one-of-two free throws to take a 17-13 lead.
Houston pulled to within two points on a Thomas jumper. But, that’s all the Cougars would get, as Southern Miss closed the half on a 19-0 run over the final 6:41 to lead 34-21 at the half.
The Cougars scored seven of the first nine points in the second half to cut the deficit to 16 points. But that’s as close as they would come, as Southern Miss led by as many as 27 points.
Southern Miss shot 47.7-percent (31-of-65) from the floor and 33.3-percent (5-of-15) from three-point range. Houston, who came into the game leading C-USA with 79.7 points per game, shot just 33.3-percent (19-of-57) from the field and 16.0-percent (4-of-25) from behind the arc. Southern Miss won the rebounding battle, 45-to-36, and recorded 21 assists.
Young led Houston with 14 points and Thomas added 10.
Southern Miss goes back on the road Wednesday, Jan. 16, when it travels to Dallas, Texas to face SMU. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. CT.