Eagles defeat SMU
Special to the Hattiesburg American
DALLAS, Texas - Andre Stephens hit the go-ahead bucket with 1:32 remaining as Southern Miss collected a 57-56 Conference USA season-opening victory, holding off SMU at Moody Coliseum Wednesday night after taking a big first-half advantage.
The Golden Eagles (11-3 overall, 1-0 in C-USA) snapped an 18-game regular-season C-USA road losing streak, as well as a 15-game regular-season losing streak of playing games away Reed Green Coliseum.
Jeremy Wise led the Golden Eagles with 11 points, while Courtney Beasley added 10 points.
Southern Miss, which scored the first 10 points of the game and led by as many as 21 points in the opening half, took a 37-19 lead at intermission by making 17-of-34 shots in the opening half. But the Golden Eagles had to fight off a Mustang squad that outscored them 37-20 over the final 20 minutes.
"As well as we played in the first half, they played just as well in the second half," said Southern Miss coach Larry Eustachy. "It definitely was a tale of two halves."
The Mustangs (11-4, 0-1) overcame a poor shooting first half, 21.4 percent (6-of-28), and made five second-half 3-pointers to get back into the contest.
Devon Pearson was one of four Mustangs in double figures as he scored all 12 of his points in the final half. Pearson made two free throws with 3:15 left to give SMU its first lead of the contest at 54-53. Ike Ofoegbu added 12 points, while Derrick Roberts tallied 11 and Jon Killen notched 10 for the Mustangs.
Beasley then answered for Southern Miss with a basket, before Bamba Fall drained two free throws to give SMU its final advantage at 56-55 with 2:42 to play.
The two teams traded possessions before DeWayne Green found Stephens in the paint for the easy bucket. It was one of a game-high seven assists for Green as the visitors outscored the Mustangs 36-20 in the paint for the game.
Five possessions then went by before Wise was fouled for a one-and-one with 16 seconds remaining and he missed the front end. On SMU's final possession, the ball got knocked out of bounds with just under three seconds to play and the home squad got the ball to Derrick Roberts who clanged a jumper off the back iron as time expired.