Southern Miss picks up road win vs. FIU

Published 10:37 pm Thursday, January 31, 2019

MIAMI (AP) — Leonard Harper-Baker scored a career-high 21 points on 10-of-11 shooting and Southern Miss breezed to an 89-73 victory over Florida International on Thursday night.

Harper-Baker added five rebounds, three blocked shots and two steals for the Golden Eagles (13-9, 5-5 Conference USA). Tyree Griffin added 18 points and seven assists, Cortez Edwards scored 18 with five assists and freshman Gabe Watson pitched in with a career-best 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting.

Watson added five assists for Southern Miss, which shot 59 percent from the floor.

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Reserve Willy Nunez Jr. came off the bench to score 21 on 7-of-13 shooting from 3-point range to pace the Golden Panthers (13-9, 4-5). Osasumwen Osaghae had 12 points and nine rebounds.

Edwards scored the final five points in a 14-0 run that pushed the Southern Miss lead to 30-16. The Golden Eagles used an 8-0 to close out the half to lead 47-38.

FIU pulled with 49-47 on Elhadji Dieng’s layup with 14:28, but Watson scored six in an 8-0 spurt and the Golden Eagles kept a double-digit lead from there. Southern Miss held FIU 14 points under its per-game average of 87, which was fifth best in the country.

Southern Miss had six dunks in the last 8:13, including a fastbreak reverse by Edwards that started the avalanche.

“I thought that when FIU came out with the press, and our guys were aggressive against it and took advantage of it,” Southern Miss 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 will stay in South Florida to battle Florida Atlantic at 3 p.m. Saturday.

“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,” Sadler said. “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 at Florida Atlantic
• Saturday, 3 p.m.