They call Miami the "Magic City," and there was no shortage of it in the second half of Southern Miss' 89-73 win at FIU on Thursday night.
The Golden Eagles (13-9, 5-5 C-USA), who led by 14 in the first half, overcame a slow second-half start to pull away late against the host Panthers (13-9, 4-5 C-USA), courtesy of six dunks over the final 8:13. Southern Miss led 47-45 at 15:28, but made it a 63-49 game on Cortez Edwards' fastbreak, reverse dunk that started the avalanche.
Freshman Gabe Watson had two of the explosive slams, the first coming off a three-point miss in which he leaped over the middle of the paint to also draw the foul. The exclamation point came on an alley-oop from Tyree Griffin with 28 seconds left.
"I thought that when FIU came out with the press, and our guys were aggressive against it and took advantage of it," head coach Doc Sadler said. "We got up 14, and then the things we were doing defensively, we flipped a switch because we were doing so well on offense. FIU scores 87 points per game, and that's what I kept trying to tell our guys. We came back in the second half, and despite not having a good start, we came back from it."
The 89 points marked Southern Miss' most away from home since March 5, 2016 at Marshall. The Golden Eagles now have five road wins after having that many over the previous four years.
Southern Miss shot 63.3 percent in the first half (19-for-30), the third-consecutive period its crossed 60. The Black and Gold missed eight of its first nine shots after the intermission, then made 18 of its final 25 to finish at 55.9 percent for the half. Watson had just four of his career-high 16 points in the first period, with two coming on a baseline jumper as the final buzzer sounded.
"When you hold a team that's averaging 25 free-throw attempts to just 12, it's a good game," Sadler said. "We gave up some three-pointers, but that's what we elected to do rather than give up the lane. Any time you win on the road, you have to be happy. That's two games where our defense has really taken off, allowing less than 40 percent shooting. We didn't shoot well from deep, and that's okay, but we were 10-for-12 from the foul line. We did the little things that you need to win, and hopefully this can carry over to Saturday."
Southern Miss now travels slightly north to battle Florida Atlantic at 3 p.m. CT on Saturday.
The Lady Eagles came away victorious against FIU on Thursday night, 71-57 against the Panthers in Reed Green Coliseum.
It was Play4Kay night in Reed Green, and the Lady Eagles (12-10, 4-5) were powerful in pink against the FIU Panthers (3-18, 0-8). A slower start for Southern Miss soon picked up, with 3-pointers abounding throughout the game, especially from Shonte Hailes. Hailes hit a new career high for 3-pointers made in a game with five balls sank from beyond the arc. Hailes' total 3-pointers alone tied the 3-pointers made by the Panthers. Megan Brown also saw success from the 3-point line, going 3-for-3. One of Brown's 3-pointers was a buzzer beater to end the second quarter.
The Lady Eagles out-shot, out-rebounded, out-blocked, out-assisted and all-around out-played the Panthers. Shonte Hailes had an outstanding game, finishing with 27 points - one point below her career high and the third time she has had a 20-point game this season. The junior continued to be the assists leader for the Lady Eagles, putting up five assists against the Panthers, making this game her 13th of the season and 35th of her career where she has had five or more. It was also her 50th game as the leading assister in her career. Hailes finished the night going 11-for-16 from the field and 5-for-7 from the 3-point line. Megan Brown and Respect Leaphart were also big contributors against the Panthers; Brown had her second double-double of the season with 11 points and 10 rebounds, while Leaphart also put up 11 points. Amber Landing had a season-high three blocks.
The Lady Eagles will finish this homestand with the game against Florida Atlantic on Saturday. Tip off is set for 4pm in Reed Green Coliseum, and Southern Miss will be celebrating National Girls and Women in Sports Day with other women’s programs, including the introduction of the inaugural beach volleyball team.