HATTIESBURG, Miss. - Southern Miss scored nine points in overtime, all on free throws, but it was enough to give head coach Donnie Tyndall his first victory, as the Golden Eagles won, 67-64, over Western Kentucky, Saturday night at Reed Green Coliseum.
The victory gave Southern Miss its 16th straight win at home, which is the seventh longest in the country. The Golden Eagles have also won their last eight season-openers.
"I'm as proud of this team as I am of any other," said Tyndall. "I'm very proud of this team and the effort they gave. To come into the game with two guys injured, and then to have four foul out, we certainly have a lot of things that we have to clean up. But, I can't fault our effort. We did all of the tough things that we had to do against a real good Western Kentucky team."
Michael Craig had 13 point and seven rebound and Jerrold Brooks had 13 points, five rebounds and four steals. Dwayne Davis dropped in 11 points, while Deon Edwin (188-G) added a team-high eight boards to go along with seven points.
Western Kentucky got the upper hand early in overtime, when Kevin Kaspar hit his fourth three-pointer of the game. Southern Miss then connected on seven straight free throws to take 65-61 lead. WKU pulled back to within one point when Jamal Crook converted a three-point play, but Brooks hit two straight free throws to make it a three-point game. The Hilltoppers had one final chance to tie the game, but O'Karo Akamune's three-point try was long, and Southern Miss held on.
Southern Miss came out of gate on fire, using a pair of three-pointers from Brooks and Davis to score the first 10 points of the game. After a three minute draught that saw neither team score, WKU finally got on the board on a George Fant jumper 6:09 into the game.
Play went back-and-forth as the teams traded baskets, but a pair of layups by Craig and Edwin gave Southern Miss its largest lead of the game, 24-10, with 6:47 to play.
The Hilltoppers then went on a 12-4 run over the next 4:33 to pull to within six points. But a dunk by Norville Carey sent the Golden Eagles in halftime with a 30-22 lead.
Southern Miss immediately pushed the lead to 10 in the second half on a Jonathan Mills jumper. But, Western Kentucky scored eight of the next nine points to make it a three-point game.
The Golden Eagles then scored eight straight points to take its largest lead of the second half. After missing its first 11 three-point attempts, WKU finally got one to go down by Kaspar. Following a pair of free throw by both teams, the Hilltoppers took advantage of two straight turnovers to score eight straight points and pull to within 45-43 with 9:07 to play.
Southern Miss went on a 10-3 run to push the lead back to 55-46, but WKU scored 10 straight points, capped off by a three-pointer by Kaspar with three minutes left to give the Hilltoppers their first lead of the game.
The Black and Gold hit three straight free throws to make it 58-56, but a pair of free throws by Fant sent the game into overtime.
Crook led the Hilltoppers with 17 points. Kaspar scored 13 and Fant added 10. T.J. Price pulled down a game-high nine rebounds.
Southern Miss shot 36.7-percent (22-of-60) from the floor and held WKU to 21-of-64 (32.8%) shooting. The Golden Eagles were also 70-percent (21-of-30) from the charity stripe, while Western Kentucky connected on just 16-of-30 (53.3%). Both teams pulled down 46 rebounds. Southern Miss also had 15 steals.
Southern Miss begins a four-game road trip next week when it travels to Athens, Ga., to face Georgia in the opening round of the Progressive Legends Classic, Thursday, Nov. 15.
PANAMA CITY (2016 Centrobasket Championship) - Virgin Islands defeated Cuba 95-70, ending up with the 5th place of the 2016 Centrobasket Championship and becoming the seventh team qualified to Division A of the 2017 FIBA New Competition System and Calendar that will in turn qualify to the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup hosted by China. Turning Point: After a contested first half, Virgin Islands put up a 28-17 third quarter led by a versatile attack that included five players scoring in... [read more]
PANAMA CITY (2016 Centrobasket Championship) - Virgin Islands defeated Cuba 95-70, ending up with the 5th place of the 2016 Centrobasket Championship and becoming the seventh team qualified to Division A of the 2017 FIBA New Competition System and Calendar that will in turn qualify to the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup hosted by China.
Turning Point: After a contested first half, Virgin Islands put up a 28-17 third quarter led by a versatile attack that included five players scoring in double figures.
Stats Don't Lie: Virgin Islands' bench scoring was too much for a Cuban attack that relied on the individual play of their point guard Yaser Rodriguez. Virgin Islands scored 37 bench points against only 23 from Cuba.
Game Hero: Walter Hodge (183-PG-86, college: Florida) led the way for Virgin Islands with a complete performance that included 19 points, 5 rebounds and 8 assists in the victory.
The Bottom Line: Virgin Islands came close. The team had tough outings and losses against Semi-Finalists Mexico and Dominican Republic that ultimately cost them a chance at the medal round. But Virgin Islands was able to close their participation in the 2016 edition with a dominating performance that showed their elite level in Central American and Caribbean play.
Teams qualified to Division A of the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup Qualifiers: Canada, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Panama, Puerto Rico, USA, Virgin Islands
PANAMA (Centrobasket) - The team coached by Sam Mitchell claimed its second win of the 2016 Centrobasket Championship by defeating Costa Rica, 75 - 68 Turning Point: After a closely contested first half, Virgin Islands got into their usual fast pace and with a 19 - 7 third quarter cultivated the lead that will eventually get them the win. Stats don't lie: Virgin Islands accumulated 8 less turnovers than Costa Rica (11-19). Game Hero: Walter Hodge(183-PG-86, college: Florida) was the to... [read more]
PANAMA (Centrobasket) - The team coached by Sam Mitchell claimed its second win of the 2016 Centrobasket Championship by defeating Costa Rica, 75 - 68
Turning Point: After a closely contested first half, Virgin Islands got into their usual fast pace and with a 19 - 7 third quarter cultivated the lead that will eventually get them the win.
Stats don't lie: Virgin Islands accumulated 8 less turnovers than Costa Rica (11-19).
Game Hero: Walter Hodge (183-PG-86, college: Florida) was the top scorer for the winning team with 14 points and 7 assist.
The Bottom Line: Virgin Islands kept alive their hopes of qualifying to the Semifinals of the Centrobasket after capturing their second win of the competition. Tomorrow in the last day of the first phase, Virgin Islands will face the National Team of the Dominican Republic.
SMITH VIDEO After announcing earlier this year that he would depart Bethune-Cookman as a graduate transfer at the end of the spring semester, Laron Smith(203-F-93) visited various prospective schools. At each stop, one would negatively recruit against another. When he began to consider Auburn, the defeatists came out in force. 'People were like, 'Oh, you're going to play backup to the other bigs. You're not ready for that level. That's a whole different type of competition. I don't know... [read more]
After announcing earlier this year that he would depart Bethune-Cookman as a graduate transfer at the end of the spring semester, Laron Smith (203-F-93) visited various prospective schools. At each stop, one would negatively recruit against another. When he began to consider Auburn, the defeatists came out in force.
'People were like, 'Oh, you're going to play backup to the other bigs. You're not ready for that level. That's a whole different type of competition. I don't know if you want to go there and fail. It's your last year,'' Smith, a 6-foot-9 forward, recalled Monday.
At least at first, Smith listened to the cynics.
Maybe it wasn't worth spending his final college season at a school where it was no guarantee he would start or receive significant playing time. If he went to a mid-major school, Smith thought, he would be able to play his game and thrive. But the more he thought about it, the more he saw the Tigers were the right fit.
In Auburn, he saw a pathway to achieving his ultimate goal.
'If I want to go to the NBA, I've got to play against the best guys. If I can't play against the best guys, then I've got to take that dream out of the picture,' Smith said. 'The dream is in the picture, so when I was making my decision, I'm saying, 'What's going to make me be in the best situation to use the best of my abilities against the best competition?' When I came here, Bruce Pearl, he needed a shot-blocker, a person who was going to rebound and run the floor - those are my specialties. So he's going to put me where I'm comfortable at.'
It wasn't just what Pearl told him about his on-court role with the team that sold Smith on Auburn, though. It was how he was treated when he visited.
"The first thing I did was go to his house and meet his wife and kids and stuff like that and we had a dinner there," Smith said, "so that made me feel like I'm at home."
Smith also made sure to make the trip without his mother. Though he lived with her during his time at Bethune-Cookman - and she will do the same in Auburn - Smith said his mother would often try to push him in one direction or another based solely on her own perspective of a visit; in this instance, Smith felt he needed to do what was best for him. And he needed to do it alone. After much deliberation, Smith came to his decision.
He would become a Tiger.
And since summer workouts started two weeks ago, Smith has quickly settled into a groove.
'Very competitive,' Smith said of the practices thus far. 'Makes me want to go the gym late (at) night to get some extra work in, just so I'm on top of my game every day at practice. I'm loving everybody, man. It feels like a family here.'
No area of his game will receive more late-night gym work than free throw shooting. Since beginning his college career at Georgia State in 2012-13, Smith has steadily trended downward. In his first season at Georgia State, he shot 40 percent (4 of 10). As a sophomore, it dropped to 29.4 percent (5-for-17). He bottomed out last season at Bethune, making just 26.5 percent (13 of 49) of his attempts.
Yet Smith remains hopeful.
"I'm walking with faith. I hope I could be up in the 75 (percent range)," he said, "but I'm a realistic person. Hopefully I'm up in the mid-60s."
Every day at practice, Smith puts up as many shots as possible at the line. It's not just that he wants to improve; it's a matter of pride, too. He's tired of being taken out at the end of games because he's viewed as a liability. He's tired of opponents employing the "Hack-a-Shaq" strategy against him.
"I feel like as long as I can knock down free throws, I can stay in the game for a longer period of time and close out games," Smith said.
The free throws will come if they come.
Regardless of how he fares at the line this season, Smith said there were a few things he will bring to the team that will be on display every game. Above all else, he's "just going to compete."
Everything else he does flows from simply giving sustained, unrelenting effort.
"Any time I'm on the floor, I'm going to try to get ... blocked shots and rebounds - I know that's my criteria," he said. "I strive to get defensive player of the year. I got it last year (in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference). I'm trying to get it this year in the SEC, so basically they should expect me to finish around the basket, knock down some shots, block shots and rebound."
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