Southern Miss

St. Martin’s Rodrick Sikes off to a red hot start at South Alabama

South Alabama guard Rodrick Sikes, formerly of St. Martin, during the game against Southern Miss in Mobile on Wednesday.
South Alabama guard Rodrick Sikes, formerly of St. Martin, during the game against Southern Miss in Mobile on Wednesday. Special to the Sun Herald

Rodrick Sikes fulfilled his dream of signing with a Division I program in April and he’s done a good job so far of taking advantage of his opportunity.

The St. Martin product continued his hot run through the early going of his first season at South Alabama, scoring a game-high of 20 in a 69-58 victory over Southern Miss on Wednesday night at the Mitchell Center.

Sikes played a big hand as USA (5-3) started hot from the field, hitting a 3-pointer to give the Jaguars a 29-4 lead at the 11:01 mark of the first half.

“Rodrick is doing a great job,” USA coach Matthew Graves said. “What people underestimate with Rodrick is he’s not just a shooter. He is a scorer because he gets to the free throw line, gets fouled and he’s really fast. When we’re able to spread the floor like we can, it really gives him a lot of freedom.”

After his outside shot went cold in the second half, Sikes managed to get to the basket a couple of times to help quell any chance of a USM rally.

“I thought tonight he did a great job back cutting and getting to the rim and finishing at the rim as athletic as he is,” Graves said.

Sikes pushed his season average to a team high of 16 points, impressive numbers considering he made just his second start of the season on Wednesday.

“I had an adjustment period I had to go through my first two weeks,” Sikes said. “But after I learned their system, I fit in pretty well.”

The 6-foot-1 guard had a good run at Southwest Mississippi Community College, averaging 22 points a game as a sophomore. He chose to sign with USA over offers from Morehead State, Central Michigan and several other Division I programs.

Sikes has continued to grow as a player after a standout career at St. Martin, where he was a member of the 2015 Sun Herald All-South Mississippi Team.

The adjustment from junior college to the Division I level has gone about as well as he or his coaches could have expected.

“My confidence coming from last year was at an all-time high,” Sikes said. “I don’t think anybody can make my confidence go down. If I miss a shot, I think that the next one is going down.”

Sikes was 3 of 9 on 3-pointers Wednesday night and 7 of 15 overall. He also dished out a pair of assists.

Sikes has proven that he can come up with the big shot for the Jaguars. He hit a 3-pointer with 18.5 seconds remaining for the game-winning shot in a 55-52 win over New Orleans on Nov. 26.

“The next step in his maturation is to be more of a solid defender,” Graves said. “He gets lost on screens and he does some ball watching. His next development is certainly on the defensive end. He is improving in that area, no question about it.”

Southern Miss (3-4) struggled badly from the field early on Saturday, hitting just 7 of 27 shots in the first half. The Eagles recovered to hit 50 percent of their shots in the second half, but it was far too little, too late.

The Golden Eagles managed an 8-1 run to cut the USA lead to 43-27 with 14:30 remaining, but the Jaguars kept USM at an arm’s length the rest of the way.

Dominic Magee led USM in scoring and rebounding with 16 points on 6-of-13 shooting and nine rebounds.

Cortez Edwards also pitched in 14 points and six rebounds.

“We just didn’t have anything,” USM coach Doc Sadler said. “Last weekend was a tough weekend with the travel (to South Dakota). This is the first time we haven’t exceeded the other team’s energy. We were just dead. Unfortunately for us, our guard play has to be at a level and speed that’s going to exceed the other team.”

Patrick Magee: 228-896-2333, @Patrick_Magee