HATTIESBURG-- The big question for Southern Miss in Thursday's Conference USA basketball game against Texas-San Antonio was whether it would have a formidable inside presence with big Michael Craig sidelined with a sprained ankle.
Daveon Boardingham said yes.
Boardingham, a 6-foot-7, 235-pound senior forward, scored 19 points, hitting 9 of 12 inside shots as the Golden Eagles won 85-56.
"We just had to bounce back as a team," Boardingham said. "We had lost two straight. It was back to the drawing board. I just wanted to pump the team up, and get a little swagger back."
The win gives Southern Miss a 22-5 overall record and a 9-3 mark in Conference USA. UTSA drops to 8-17 and 4-8.
It was not Boardingham's biggest scoring game - he had 23 against Western Kentucky and 20 against Louisiana Tech - but he scored nine in the first half Thursday night and opened the second half with the first four baskets for the Eagles. Two were dunks, and another came just a couple of minutes later.
"The guards put me in an easy spot where I could score," he said. "And the press wore on (the Roadrunners)."
Actually, it was more than just Boardingham up close, as the entire Southern Miss team was effective close to the basket, with 50 points in the paint, compared to only 14 for UTSA.
And, as usual for the Golden Eagles, the second half proved to be their half, as they took a 32-30 halftime lead and made it as much as a 24-point lead in the first 10 minutes of the second half when Jerrold Brooks sank a lay-up to make it 64-40.
The largest margin was 33 when Deonte Houston hit a bucket to make it 83-50 with 2:24 to play in the game.
"The first half we played at their tempo and at their pace," Southern Miss coach Donnie Tyndall said. "Slow it down and get deep in the shot clock.
"In the second half it was our style - we got up and down the floor."
And when it happened, the game was over.
"When we get in the paint, the majority of the time something good happens," said guard Jerrold Brooks.
In addition to Boardingham's 19 points, Aaron Brown scored 15, Brooks had 13 and Matt Bingaya put in 12. Bingaya also pulled down 7 rebounds to lead the team, which will host UTEP - the Conference USA leader - at 5 p.m. Saturday.
USM is 12-0 at home at Reed Green Coliseum this season.