It was a flat out ugly display of college basketball for nearly all of the 40 minutes in Wednesday night's contest in Hattiesburg. Neither team could find the bucket early as only three total points were scored in the first four minutes of the game.
The slow pace continued, and after Southern Miss took a three point lead at 10-7 about eight minutes in, the Miners were able to find a little offense, and used a 15-7 run to end the half and go into the locker rooms with a 22-16 lead.
The Miners held a 27-18 lead with about 16 minutes to play, but from there it was all Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles went on a 23-4 run over the next 12 minutes to build what turned out to be an insurmountable 10 point lead with four minutes to go.
A pair of Jacques Streeter threes late brought the Miners to within four with under two to play, but that was as close as they would get. In the end, the Golden Eagles walked away with the 45-39 victory.
McKenzie Moore led the way for the Miners by scoring 12 points and hauling in 11 rebounds, but also shot only 5-15 from the floor. No other Miner finished in double figure scoring. Streeter finished with 7 points and 3 assists, and Julian Washburn had 6 points and 5 rebounds.
The Golden Eagles were led by Jerald Brooks, who had a game high 13 points to go along with 3 rebounds. Neil Watson finished with 11 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists, and Daveon Boardingham had 8 points and 8 rebounds.
As a team, the Miners shot an ice cold 15-50 (30%) from the field, including 4-26 (15.4%) from three point land. The Golden Eagles weren't much better as they went 16-48 (33.3%) from the field, and 5-22 (22.7%) from three.
Southern Miss finished with a 35-29 rebounding advantage, and also had 13 free throw attempts to just 8 for the Miners.
Coach Tim Floyd had this to say following the loss:
"It's always frustrating when you don't make shots, but at the same time, I'm very pleased with how hard our guys played on the defensive end. It was not like Houston, where we did not do anything on the other end...We held them to 33 percent [shooting], which is usually good enough to win. But unfortunately we shot 30 ourselves...We took a lot of threes [4-for-26], and did not shoot for percentage from the three-point line...In games like this, where you’re struggling scoring and shooting, you’d love to have second chance opportunities. We just fired up way too many threes, probably the most we’ve taken all year long."
It was indeed the most three point shots the Miners have attempted in a game this season. Their previous high was 25 attempts at home against Tulsa just a little less than two weeks ago.
The Miners seem to be making it a habit of taking more and more threes as well. After shooting less than 15 attempts in the majority of games in in the first half of the season, they have now shot 139 in the last 7 games.
This team is certainly capable of knocking down the long shot, but on a night like tonight that simply wasn't the answer. More than half of their shots on the night were threes, and when you're shooting less than 20% from range, that's just not a recipe for success.
As Coach Floyd pointed out, the UTEP defense did a good job in holding the Golden Eagles to a poor shooting effort as well, but when you're on the road, you have to find a way to capitalize on holding the home to only 45 points.
The loss now drops the Miners to 14-11 overall, and 7-5 in C-USA play. But, they are still tied for 3rd and own the tiebreaker over UCF. However, they have now dropped three of four, and are struggling to find their way.
The Miners will now take a break from conference action, and will head to Las Cruces on Saturday to take on a peaking New Mexico State squad. That game will tip at 7:00 p.m. MT.