HATTIESBURG, Miss. - The University of Southern Mississippi men’s basketball team used scoring advantages of 42-24 in the paint and 27-4 off turnovers to post a 74-60 win over Morehead State University on Wednesday night at Green Coliseum.
The Conference USA Golden Eagles improve to 7-1 overall, while the Ohio Valley Conference Eagles slip to 7-4 on the campaign. USM also closes its deficit in the all-time series to 5-4 with its second straight victory over MSU.
Senior Neil Watson led four Southern Mississippi players in double figures with 19 points on 8-of-9 from the free-throw line. He also recorded five assists and three steals.
The Golden Eagles forced 12 turnovers in each half. USM was also credited with 10 steals.
MSU drilled 89 percent (8-of-9) from the foul line in the first half, but made just 30 percent (6-of-20) after intermission en route to 48 percent (14-of-29) for the contest. The Eagles entered the night at 66 percent on the season.
“Turnovers and free throws were tonight’s story,” Head Coach Sean Woods said. “We shot 47 percent from the floor and outrebounded Southern Miss by 12, but you can’t commit 24 turnovers and miss 14 free throws in the second half.”
Junior Angelo Warner paced the Eagles with 20 points on 7-of-12 from the floor and 4-of-5 from the free-throw line, while junior Luka Pajkovic added 19 points on 4-of-6 from three-point range and 5-of-6 from the charity stripe.
Senior Chad Posthumus contributed 16 points and 15 rebounds for his sixth double-double this season and the eighth of his two-year career. Warner’s 20-point performance was his fifth in 2013-14 and seventh at Morehead State.
MSU managed a 38-26 rebounding advantage, including 14-10 on the offensive end. The Eagles have not been outrebounded in 11 contests this season.
Southern Mississippi jumped out to an 8-0 advantage and never trailed. The Golden Eagles opened up their biggest lead of 16 points with 13:10 to play.
Morehead State cut the deficit to 62-55 with 6:07 remaining, but seven straight missed free throws allowed USM to push its lead back to 70-56 with 47 ticks left.
“Give Southern Miss credit,” Woods said. “They are well coached and have several quality players. They also had time to prepare for this game, and that showed. We played on Monday and had a 13-hour travel day yesterday.”
Wednesday wrapped up 11 contests in 26 days for Morehead State. The Eagles have also played eight of their first 11 games this season away from Johnson Arena.
Morehead State is now idle for 10 days due to semester finals. The Eagles return to action on Dec. 15 when they host Mid-American Conference foe Bowling Green at 2 p.m.. MSU will play three of its next four contests in Morehead.
“I can only hope this stretch of 11 games in 26 days makes us tougher in the long run,” Woods added. “I think we’ve learned several lessons in some of these challenging road environments. I’m going to give our young men three days off, so they can get away from basketball for a little bit.
“I want our players to finish the semester strong from an academic standpoint. We will also have several opportunities to practice before our next game against Bowling Green. There’s no doubt I want to win every game, but I’ll take a 7-4 record with the crazy schedule we’ve played so far.”