Golden Eagles outlast FIU, 75-67By ANDREW ABADIE,
The Southern Miss men's basketball team found itself battling in a game of runs against Florida International on Saturday.
FIU cut the Golden Eagle lead down to three-points at 70-67. However, Tyler Stevenson nailed a pair of free throws and then followed with a steal to secure a 75-67 win as well as Southern Miss second set of back-to-back wins on the season.
Stevenson led the team with 22 points and 11 rebounds, which was his fifth double-double of the season.
"It feels good to know that we are heating up at the right time," Stevenson said. "It's a confidence booster as well. As we go into the next game, we keep our confidence up and try to win that one too and keep moving forward."
From start to finish, Southern Miss had to develop and hold off runs against a Panther offense that averages 77 points per game. According to Southern Miss head Jay Ladner, preparing for multiple runs is what his team expected.
"This is what we told the team yesterday," Ladner said. "'This will be a game of runs. Whether we get up on them or they get upon us, it's not going to be over. They are going to shoot a bunch of 3-pointers. Therefore, they are going to be able to make things up in a hurry. We are going to go on runs too because a team that shoots a lot of 3-pointers sometimes goes on droughts too. So, whether we are up or down we have to keep playing possession by possession, play smart, play tough, play under control.'"
FIU opened the game with an 11-4 lead; however, Southern Miss took control of the lead with a 19-0 run, which the Golden Eagles never gave up.
Southern Miss' goal was to control the tempo and limit the heavy shooting Panthers, which was led by Gabe Watson in double-double performance of 14 points and 11 rebounds.
"Coach's message before the game was to control the tempo," Watson said. "FIU is a fast-paced team that wants to press all the time. [The goal] was to control the tempo and limit turnovers."
After taking a 34-21 halftime lead, FIU battled back to bring the score to within a one-possession game at 43-41. However, the Golden Eagles again responded with another run an 11-2 run to stay ahead.
The Golden Eagles were able to hold off FIU's 39 3-pointer attempts and win the game inside the paint. Southern Miss outrebounded the Panthers 41-26 and shot 54.9 percent from the field.
"When we got back and got our five defenders set, we made it difficult for them to score a lot," Ladner said. "[They] had a lot of shot clock violations. For them to get a shot clock violation, somebody is doing a good job because it's not in their DNA to hold the ball that long. They want to get it up there and play. I guess we made one more run than they did. They have an outstanding team."
Southern Miss finished with four different players reaching double-digits. Along with Stevenson and Watson, LaDavius Draine scored 19 points and Artur Konontsuk scored 10 points.
"We're not a pretty team." Ladner said. "We have to learn how to play with the lead. We're in that transition stage from losing to thinking we can win, and now how to win. Part of it is playing smart down the stretch. FIU got within three and we were missing free-throws and turning the ball over. We weren't tough enough, but we steadied ourselves. I was very pleased. FIU has had an outstanding year."
Southern Miss will start pod play for the next four games. The Golden Eagles will host Middle Tennessee on Saturday at 12 p.m. to start the bonus play.