Golden Eagles slam Rebels

Published 11:42 pm Saturday, December 17, 2011

HATTIESBURG — Southern Miss coach Larry Eustachy would have preferred that Neil Watson cut the fast break short, milking some clock in the final minute of a tight game against in-state rival Mississippi.

The precocious point guard had other ideas.

Watson flipped a pass to Torye Pelham, who was streaking down the lane, and finished with a powerful, one-handed jam that sealed Southern Miss’ 86-82 victory over Ole Miss on Saturday night.

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“I’m a little old-school,” Eustachy said with a grin, sipping on his Diet Coke. “I thought we should have pulled it out. But that was neat for the guys. That’s called adjusting as an old coach.”

Angelo Johnson scored 23 points and Watson added 18 points and 11 assists as the Golden Eagles won their fourth straight. It was an entertaining game that had 12 lead changes, hitting its crescendo with Pelham’s tomahawk jam that had the 5,195 fans at Reed Green Coliseum jumping in the aisles.

“I think this one is an instant classic,” Eustachy said. “(Ole Miss) played their best game of the season, no question. We had no answer for them but to outscore them, and that’s not our (game). We take pride in defense.”

But there was little of that from either team.

Southern Miss (8-2) led for much of the second half, but Ole Miss’ Terrance Henry tied the game at 76 on a pair of free throws with 1:53 remaining. Watson responded with a 3-pointer from the corner to give the Golden Eagles a 79-76 lead. The junior college transfer scored 12 of his 18 points in the second half.

“I’ve been telling everyone Neil Watson was going to be a great player on this team, and he hit some huge shots today.” Johnson said.

Southern Miss shot 49.2 percent from the field (30 of 61), including 53.3 percent (8 of 15) from 3-point range.

Ole Miss (9-2) was led by Henry’s career-high 26 points. The 6-foot-9 senior shot 10 of 14 from the field and scored 19 points in the second half. Dundrecous Nelson scored 19 points and Jarvis Summers added 12.

It was the teams’ first meeting in Hattiesburg since 1994. The loss snapped Ole Miss’ six-game winning streak.

Neither team could get much of an advantage until midway through the second half, when Southern Miss used an 8-0 run to push ahead 60-55 with 9:29 remaining.