GAME NOTES: The Southern Miss Golden Eagles will close out a three-game homestand on Sunday afternoon, as they face off with the Charlotte 49ers in a Conference USA clash at Reed Green Coliseum.
Charlotte has had only two days to recover from a 64-63 loss to Tulane. The setback came after two straight wins for the 49ers, who are a solid 14-8 overall, but a mediocre 5-4 in conference play. They will begin their own three-game homestand next time out when they host Marshall.
Neil Watson drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key in the final seconds to propel Southern Miss to a 60-57 win over Marshall on Friday night. The win extended the Golden Eagles' winning streak to six games and maintained their perfect mark at home (10-0). They will visit UAB and Middle Tennessee in their next two bouts.
This is the first meeting between these two teams since 2005, when Charlotte ran away with an 81-58 decision, as Southern Miss is in its first season in Conference USA. The 49ers have never had much trouble with the Golden Eagles as non-league foes, with 26 wins in 30 previous matchups.
A free-throw by Tulane's Jay Hook with a second to play sank Charlotte on Friday. Pierria Henry, who scored a game-high 14 points in the loss, had a last-second chance, but his shot was off the mark. The 49ers only connected on 37.5 percent of their tries from the floor in the loss.
Henry (12.2 ppg, 6.2 apg) is one of four players on the team averaging in double figures. He is not only one of the team's most reliable shooters, but he also runs the point to great effect, ranking third in the conference in assists. Shawn Lester (12.8 ppg) and Willie Clayton (12 ppg, 9 rpg) are the scorers he gets the ball to most often. Clayton is an especially efficient finisher, knocking down 61.5 percent from the floor to lead the league in field goal percentage. He is also third in the league in rebounds. Terrence Williams (10.5 ppg) can also light it up, but he is connecting on just 34.8 percent from the field on the season.
Coming out of a timeout, Watson got the ball from Michael Craig and took a few dribbles before pulling up for what turned out to be the game-winning 3- pointer for Southern Miss on Friday. Marshall had a chance to respond, but the Golden Eagles forced a turnover and Aaron Brown sank two free throws to account for the final score.
Efficient shooting and stingy defense have been the key's to Southern Miss' success. The Golden Eagles are connecting on the best percentage from the floor (.467) in Conference USA, while limiting teams to 61.5 ppg on 42 percent shooting. All that success has helped them to a league-best record of 20-3 and into a tie with Texas-El Paso for first place in the conference standings (7-1). Watson (12.1 ppg) is the top scorer, although he is shooting at just a 39.9 percent clip for the season. Craig (11.3 ppg, 8 rpg) is a more efficient scorer, finishing 58.6 percent of his chances from the floor, while leading the way on the glass. Daveon Boardingham (10.8 ppg) can also score, although he was limited to only four points against Marshall due to foul trouble.
On Friday Southern Miss proved yet again that it is a team that just finds ways to win, especially at home. If the Golden Eagles can control the tempo with their defense, they will complete the task yet again.
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