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Friday, January 11, 2008

Larry Eustachy Returns to Southern Miss

HATTIESBURG — Larry Eustachy spent two days with his ailing mother, but the Southern Miss men's coach is expected to return in time to run practice today and coach the Golden Eagles in Saturday's home game against Tulane.

Steve Barnes, USM's associate head coach, directed Thursday's practice.

Following Tuesday's home loss to Central Florida, Eustachy flew to California to be with his mother, Helen Eustachy, who has cancer. He will return to California on Sunday.

"We just don't know," Barnes said of how much time Eustachy might miss. "It's a grave situation. He would not have gone if he hadn't been in that setting.

"She's been ill a long time. There are many times he should have gone and he didn't, so again it's a day-by-day thing."

Eustachy has maintained contact with the players and coaching staff.

"He's telling us what we need to be working on and things we need to touch on," said R.L. Horton, a freshman guard from Lanier. "It's just like he's here."

The Golden Eagles are coming off a 52-41 loss in the Conference USA opener against Central Florida that extended the team's losing streak to four games.

"Right now we're just trying to find out what's wrong," said Horton. "We're still working hard and we're trying to embrace it and learn from it."

After Saturday's game against Tulane, the Golden Eagles (8-7) play at UAB (11-5, 1-0 C-USA) on Wednesday and then at No. 2 Memphis (14-0, 1-0) on Jan. 19.

"We always feel pressure to hurry and find out what's wrong," Horton said. "We're trying not to overthink anything. We'll just take it one step at a time and hopefully we'll find out what the problem is."

Horton is one of the younger members on a team that includes 12 freshmen and sophomores.

"We're young and we just got younger," Barnes said. "We added a guy (17-year-old Vitor Alves Benite) that is younger than everybody, and he's going to become a factor."

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