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Southern Miss prevails against Old Dominion

By By The Sports Xchange
Published On: Jan 23 2014 09:28:34 PM CST
Updated On: Jan 23 2014 09:28:34 PM CST

NORFOLK, Va. -- For a good portion of the second half in Thursday night's Southern Miss-Old Dominion game, it was tough to tell which team was the seasoned Conference USA contender and which one was the youthful, supposedly rebuilding upstart.

Down the stretch, though, the difference became clear.

Southern Miss guard Jerrold Brooks hit two 3-pointers and guard Neil Watson added one during a 15-2 run as the Golden Eagles pulled away from Old Dominion 75-60 at the Constant Center.

The Monarchs, who trailed by seven points early in the second half, forged ahead 52-51 on a layup by guard Keenan Palmore with 9:20 left. But Watson, one of four senior starters for Southern Miss, answered with a 3 to give the Golden Eagles the lead for good.

Two free throws by forward Michael Craig and a hook shot from forward Jeremiah Eason extended the Southern Miss advantage before Brooks sandwiched his 3-pointers around a putback by forward Daveon Boardingham to put the Golden Eagles in command at 66-54.

"We've got a veteran group and (Old Dominion coach Jeff Jones) has a young group," Southern Miss coach Donnie Tyndall said. "And I thought our experience showed through in the last seven or eight minutes. A lot of times teams get sped up in those situations and get out of character. We played with toughness and poise in a tough environment. That's a quality win for us."

Watson, a senior, scored 28 points and hit six of his team's 12 3-pointers. Brooks added 18 points and four 3s for the Golden Eagles (17-3, 4-1 Conference USA) in their fourth straight win. Watson was also 10 for 10 from the free throw line, extending his streak of consecutive makes to 39.

"Tonight, Neil was just fantastic," Tyndall said.

The Monarchs, meanwhile, were undone by costly errors as the game wore on. They finished with 17 turnovers that Southern Miss converted into 32 points.

"You can't put them in situations to get that many breakouts and open-court situations," Jones said of the Monarchs, who start two sophomores and a freshman. "We scrapped, but ultimately they wore us down. We weren't ready for this moment."

Guard Aaron Bacote scored 19 points to lead Old Dominion, but just five of those came after the opening 10 minutes. Forward Richard Ross added 11 points and nine rebounds for the Monarchs (9-10, 3-1), who lost for the first time in five games and fell out of sole possession of first place in Conference USA.

Old Dominion got off to a roaring start thanks to Bacote. He drained his first four 3-pointers and then hit two of three free throws after being fouled while launching another to stake the Monarchs to a 20-12 lead before the 10-minute mark.

But Bacote quickly returned the favor by fouling Watson -- Bacote's second foul -- while shooting a 3-pointer. With Bacote sitting out, Watson made all three free throws to start a 15-0 Southern Miss run in the next five minutes.

A fall-away 3-pointer by guard Jordan Baker got the Monarchs even at 32 with just over a minute left, but Craig buried a 3-pointer of his own at the shot-clock buzzer with three seconds left to send Southern Miss into the break leading 35-32.

Watson scored 14 first-half points to lead the Golden Eagles.

Bacote's 14 points paced Old Dominion in the opening half. But the sophomore guard said he struggled to regain his rhythm after sitting out. He also chastised himself for not playing tougher as the game went on.

"I know a couple of times, I went up in there kind of weak, like a little boy," he said. "When you play against grown men, you're not going to get those calls, especially in conference play. But it's something we definitely can learn from."

NOTES: Old Dominion had a four-game winning streak despite playing virtually all of its last two games without leading scorer Bacote, who suffered a sprained ankle early in the Monarchs' 52-36 victory at FIU on Jan. 16. ... Watson's free throw streak stretches over 10 games. His last miss came Dec. 18 at Western Kentucky. ... Old Dominion won all six of the teams' previous meetings, but the last head-to-head matchup was during the 1992-93 season.