HATTIESBURG -- After barely surviving Marshall on Friday, the Southern Miss basketball team got back to its dominant ways with an 81-64 victory over Charlotte on Sunday.
The Golden Eagles are 21-3, 8-1 in Conference USA and off to their best start since the program switched to Division I before the 1972-73 season. It's the best all-time start for a USM basketball squad since 1960-61, when the team finished the campaign with a 23-3 mark.
USM will wait Monday to see if it can draw closer to entering the USA Today Coaches Poll, which had it ranked 29th overall last week.
"People may still overlook us and underrate us, but it's not for us to judge," USM senior point guard Neil Watson said. "We've just got to go out and play. Twenty wins is a good accomplishment, but this season isn't over with."
Jerrold Brooks led USM with 19 points, 14 in the second half to help close out the victory, which keeps the Eagles in a first-place tie with UTEP.
Southern Miss won the game comfortably despite Watson going down with an ankle injury as time ran out in the first half.
The injury appeared severe at the time when Watson was carried off the court by assistant coaches Jareem Dowling and Adam Howard.
Watson sat out the second half, standing along the bench and shouting instructions to teammates.
He walked with a slight limp, but he nor Tyndall appeared to have any great concern over what was described as a "mild sprain."
"He'll have to get an X-ray tomorrow morning to be safe, but I think Neil is fine," Tyndall said. "It's a mild sprain and if he can't practice tomorrow, he'll probably be able to go on Tuesday."
Michael Craig again had a nice night on the boards for USM, putting up 14 points and eight rebounds. Aaron Brown added 13 points and five rebounds.
After barely beating a struggling Marshall squad, 60-57, on Watson's late 3-pointer Friday, USM again had a slow start on Sunday.
Charlotte jumped out to a 9-2 lead, but that advantage was erased quickly.
Southern Miss went on a 13-0 run to go up 15-9 with 12:29 left in the first half.
It didn't get much better for the 49ers after that as USM cruised into halftime with a 41-22 lead.
Tyndall pointed to the 37-25 advantage on rebounds as the main key to his team's win, but Charlotte also turned it over 20 times, leading to 25 USM points.
"(Charlotte point guard Pierria) Henry (who had five turnovers) is one of the best guards in the conference," Tyndall said. "He maybe didn't play well tonight, but he's a good player.
"Our philosophy in the way we play in our press is if you cut the head off, the body will die. That's an old (former Arkansas coach) Nolan Richardson theory and when you can grind down the point guard and make him earn every dribble, we wore him down a little bit and made him give it up."
Charlotte (14-9, 5-5) drew within 10 within 66-56 with 3:33 left, but 49ers coach Alan Major was ejected after being called for back-to-back technicals while arguing a call.
Brooks hit four straight free throws and had an easy lay-up on the in-bounds pass for a six-point swing to give the Golden Eagles a 72-56 advantage with 2:54 remaining.
USM will go on the road twice this week, first at 8 p.m. on Thursday at UAB and at 1 p.m. on Saturday at Middle Tennessee.