Southern Miss made quick work against William Carey on Wednesday night as the Golden Eagles came away within an 80-53 victory to earn their first win of the season.
A 12-4 run and then a 14-2 run in the first half was all Southern Miss needed to quickly run away from its cross-town rival. The Crusaders drop to 3-4 on the season while the Golden Eagles improve to 1-1.
“I thought we were improved from the Jacksonville game,” Southern Miss coach Jay Ladner said. “I thought we were just better. I thought our intensity was better. We were able to play some guys tonight some significant minutes.”
“Overall, I thought our guys played well (and) played hard. There were times that I thought we played really well. Of course, we have to get better as we head to next week.”
Stevenson’s Career Night
Southern Miss dominated the paint and scored 48 points while outrebounding William Carey 38-27. Helping spearhead the success in the paint was Tyler Stevenson, who scored a career-high of 27 points and hauled in seven rebounds on the night.
“I think the difference tonight was us executing our offense real well, being more solid on defense, rebound and blocking out, getting a lot of offensive boards,” Stevenson said. “I think those were the main keys from the difference of the last game.”
In the second half, Stevenson was 7-for-7 from the floor and scored 19 of his 27 points in the half.
“I think we are progressing every practice. We are still trying to get a feel for each other, but I think it’s coming, and it’s going to come.”
Stevenson’s only flaw of the night was his free throw shooting which he went 5-for-12 with the team as a whole, shooting 6-for-17 from the line as a whole.
“I have got to get in the gym every day and get up a lot of shots from the free-throw line,” Stevenson said. “My performance from the free-throw line today wasn’t good. I can’t miss a day, off days as well. I can’t miss a day so I can get that performance up and help the team.”
Shorthanded Southern Miss
Southern Miss was without several players on Wednesday night. Both DeAndre Pinckney and Mark Jaakson were out due to concussions. Pickney suffered a concussion at the Jacksonville University game, while Mark Jaakson received a concussion during practice.
“Mark Jaakson is recovering from a concussion that he got from practice,” Ladner said. “He’s actually back to practicing now, and he is out of the protocol.
“DeAndre Pinkney, I thought he got better as the game went on last week. He has a concussion as well. He took an elbow to the head on a really hard foul at Jacksonville.”
Jaron Pierre and Justin Johnson were benched in what Ladner called “coach’s decisions.”
“Justin Johnson and Jaron Pierre were coach’s decisions,” Ladner said. “There is a standard for academic behavior here. It’s nothing serious, but I wanted to let them know how serious I was about their expectations as a Southern Miss basketball player.
“Hopefully, having to sit tonight and with our team playing as well as it played and maybe some extra motivation with our weight vests up those stairs will be a great lesson for them. Nothing serious after tonight’s game, but those guys will be welcome to fight for their jobs.”
LaDavius Draine also notably went down with an ankle injury during the game. Ladner held Draine out for precautionary reasons.“I thought he was on track to have one of his games, but he tweaked his ankle,” Ladner said. “The way that the score was, I just didn’t feel comfortable and didn’t need to put him back in there. I wanted to make sure that he was healthy.”
Hardy and Malone
The shorthanded effort may have created a new one-two punch for Southern Miss. Guards Tae Hardy and Jay Malone both were forced to swap between the one and two spots, and while it seemed somewhat unorthodox, the duo had massive success.
“We were kind of forced to do that because of the player suspensions and injuries,” Ladner said. “We started Jay at the one position and Tae at the two position off the ball. We mixed and matched with them a good bit. Both of them played the one position. I liked what I saw out there.”
Hardy and Malone helped score points on the fast break as well as turnovers. The two combined for 16 points, eight assists and five rebounds.
On the night, the Golden Eagles scored 35 points from turnovers and 15 fast breakpoints.
“This being our first win as a team, this gives us a whole lot confidence going into next week,” Hardy said. “This shows our chemistry is increasing day by day, and we are learning to play as a team.”