Golden Eagles Exploit Pirates

GREENVILLE, N.C. -- Southern Miss (18-3, 5-1 C-USA) wore down East Carolina (11-9, 0-5 C-UA) down the stretch on its way to a 60-46 victory inside Minges Coliseum Saturday.

East Carolina could not keep up with one of Conference USA's premier teams Saturday night. League-leading Southern Miss overwhelmed the under-manned Pirates, due in large part to its considerable size advantage inside, in a 60-46 victory at Minges Coliseum.

ECU (11-9, 0-5 C-USA) squandered a 42-38 second-half lead by making just one field goal in the final 13 minutes of the game. Southern Miss capitalized with an 18-1 run that put the game away.

The blue-print for the Golden Eagles' (18-3, 5-1 C-USA) success was to exploit the Pirates' interior shortfalls and force them to almost exclusively take jump shots. Southern Miss substantially outscored ECU in the paint 34-2 and the Pirates were held without a made-two-point field goal in the second half.

"Our game-plan is to always work inside-out," said Southern Miss coach Donnie Tyndall. "We're a team that can shoot the three … but we're going to try and drive the ball, get to the free throw line and get those big guys some touches."

The Golden Eagles worked the ball inside to Daveon Boardingham and the bruising forward wore down the Pirates, who had no answers for him down the stretch. The 6-foot-7 senior was a perfect 7-for-7 from the floor for a team-high 15 points.

ECU has now dropped seven of its last eight games and four straight at Minges Coliseum. To make matters worse, the Pirates have been held to season-low scoring outputs in each of their last four games.

"If we're not shooting the ball well, you can pretty much go ahead and count us out," said ECU senior Akeem Richmond, who turned in a game-high 18 points. "That's one of our strengths and if we're not shooting the ball well, then we're not playing well."

Richmond, junior shooting guard Paris Roberts-Campbell and freshman Caleb White accounted for 40 of ECU's 46 points Saturday, but the game was really a tale of two halves.

ECU started out red-hot from three-point range – dialing up five of its first seven attempts – to provide the Pirates an early 17-9 advantage on their home floor. White scored 13 points and ECU led 30-23 at halftime. The Golden Eagles' 23-point performance was their lowest first-half total since mustering just 13 points against Louisville in November.

But as all great teams do, Southern Miss made the necessary adjustments at the break. One of those was to limit the touches of White in scoring areas. He was held scoreless in the second half.

"They altered the way I was catching the ball a bit and when, during the possession, I was catching it," said White. "They got some better contest in there as well, running bodies at me quicker, but I still have to hit (shots) in the second half."

Southern Miss opened the second half on a 11-3 run to gain its first lead -- 34-33 -- since scoring the first bucket of the game. After being held scoreless in the opening 20 minutes, senior guard Neil Watson supplied 10 second-half points and five steals defensively.

Once Petar Torlak split a pair of free throws at the 10:09 mark – giving ECU its last lead 43-42 – the Pirates would not score again until Roberts-Campbell drilled a triple with 2:05 remaining. But at that point, the game was already decided. Southern Miss went on a 14-0 run during ECU's eight-minute drought to go ahead 56-43.

Freshman forward Brandan Stith returned to game action after missing Thursday night's loss to Tulane with a concussion. He did not score, but tied Richmond for a team-best six rebounds. Stith's fellow forward, Michael Zangari, was also held scoreless as both players attempted just two shots.

ECU's two point guards, Antonio Robinson and Prince Williams, didn't fare much better – combining for just two points and two assists, but had five turnovers. The Pirates had 18 turnovers as a team.

ECU will return to action next Thursday night at Middle Tennessee State. Tip-off time is set for 8 p.m. from Murfreesboro, TN.

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