South Alabama turned a tight contest at the half into a 78-55 victory over Southern Miss Wednesday night at Reed Green Coliseum.
USM (3-2) struggled to hold onto the ball for much of the night and finished with 19 turnovers that were converted into 21 points by South Alabama.
South Alabama 6-foot-7 junior Georgi Boyanov, who entered the game shooting 72.7 percent on 3-pointers, improved on that number Wednesday. He hit 4-of-5 3-pointers and finished with a game high of 23 points.
“When Georgi takes uncontested shots in rhythm, he’s one of best shooters we’ve got,” South Alabama coach Matthew Graves said.
USA appears much improved in year No. 4 under Graves. The Jaguars, who began the season with an impressive 76-68 win at UNLV, improved to 6-1.
“We just got our butt kicked,” USM head coach Doc Sadler said. “They were better than us in every area. I was disappointed we weren’t ready to play and we’ve got to understand that teams we play from here on out are going to be as good or better than you are.”
USA will have a big home game at 7:05 p.m. on Saturday when one of Conference USA’s best teams, Middle Tennessee, travels to Mobile.
MTSU (7-1) toppled Ole Miss 77-62 in Oxford Wednesday night.
Southern Miss (3-2) will travel to Jackson State for a 3:30 p.m. tip on Sunday. USM is 1-2 against Division I competition with the other two wins coming against NAIA Tougaloo and Div. II Union (Tenn.)
USM sophomore guard Cortez Edwards broke through with a career high of 15 points, hitting 6-of-8 from the field.
Edwards started the game on the bench, but Sadler hinted that he could see more minutes going forward.
“I saw we didn’t come out with much energy,” Edwards said. “I wanted to bring my team up and it turned out good for me.”
USM sophomore center Tim Rowe had a nice first half, hitting 4-of-8 from the field for nine points and five rebounds. However, he was called for a foul late in the first half and entered the break with three fouls.
He started the second half on the bench and finished with 12 points and six rebounds.
The 6-foot-10 Rowe entered the game leading the team in scoring with an average of 12.3 points a game.
“We scored all but two times we got it in the paint in the first half,” Sadler said. “That’s what we’re doing best. Hopefully that will continue and we’ll get some wide open shots”
Edwards hit a 3-pointer from corner as time ran off the clock in the first half, cutting the South Alabama lead to 37-32.
The Jaguars (7-1) put the game out of reach for the Golden Eagles by beginning the second half on a 20-5 run to grab a 57-37 lead with 14:33 remaining.
“We’re playing with a lot of confidence it all starts on the defensive end of the floor,” Graves said. “If we’re active there, it leads to offense.”
USM continues to compete without its best player, senior point guard Khari Price, who is still recovering from preseason arthroscopic knee surgery.
Price’s ball handling skills are badly needed if USM is to be competitive against Conference USA competition.
Sadler is unsure on when Price will return.
“I don’t know,” Sadler said “He actually was on the floor for about 2 or 3 minutes yesterday and looked threat, but he’s not ready yet. Kevin (Holland) is not a point guard. He’s trying his best. Khari will be out there, but it’s going to be later rather than sooner.”