Southern Miss

Southern Miss basketball faces difficult road after 0-4 start

 Southern Miss coach Doc Sadler speaks to his team during a game last season in Hattiesburg. The Golden Eagles are 0-4 to start this season.
GEORGE CLARK/ASSOCIATED PRESS Southern Miss coach Doc Sadler speaks to his team during a game last season in Hattiesburg. The Golden Eagles are 0-4 to start this season. AP

HATTIESBURG -- Southern Miss men's basketball coach Doc Sadler doesn't even try to spin his Golden Eagles' 0-4 start this season.

"We are a very young, not very good basketball team," Sadler said.

And it's going to take more than snapping his fingers to get the team to come together on the court and play well.

"I looked out there the other night (against Jackson State) and I started two kids I got in August, two walk-ons and Khari Price (a redshirt guard who last played in 2013-14 at Dayton)," Sadler said.

"We don't have two guys that's ever played with each other. I've never been a part of a situation where it's just a whole new group of guys. You'd like to say you had at least two or three, maybe they didn't even play but at least they were on the team, and that's not the case right now. It's going to take a long time. We're a long way from being decent. A long way. A long way."

The blame does not lie at Sadler's feet. Or those of the players.

First, there was the transition caused by former coach Donnie Tyndall, who coached Southern Miss in the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons, to that of Sadler. There was the usual amount of player discontent and the expected transferring of a few players.

Then there is the NCAA investigation of the team because of alleged improprieties of Tyndall, who was hired by Tennessee after the 2013-14 season and fired by Tennessee after the NCAA disclosed information about the investigation. Two players were dismissed due to the investigation, and several others quit.

Norville Carey and Kevin Holland, two of USM's top returners, decided to sit out this season in order to receive redshirts.

Carey, a 6-foot-7 senior forward, was an inside presence. He averaged 10.8 points and 5.6 rebounds last season, and had 16 double-figure scoring games and led the Golden Eagles in rebounding 13 games.

Holland, a 6-1 sophomore guard, played in all 29 games as a freshman and started 11. He led USM in assists six times.

But without Carey and Holland to solidify the team, Southern Miss has shown little of the cohesiveness that it did last year in Sadler's first season at the school, when it went 9-20 overall and 4-14 in Conference USA, with the highlight being a 63-60 victory over UTEP in which the Eagles fought back from a 24-point second-half deficit to win.

And Sadler knows it won't be an easy fix.

"You'd like to play a lot of these young guys and let them gain experience but you need to win some games, too," he said.

The last time Southern Miss started 0-4 before this season was in 1992-93.

The Eagles play at Troy (3-3) at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.

The last time Southern Miss started 0-5 was in 1971-72, a season when the Golden Eagles finished 0-24.

"The guys' heads are definitely down," Price said. "You have a Southern Miss shirt on, you don't think you should lose."

USM lost to NAIA member William Carey on Nov. 23 and fell to Morehead State on Nov. 28, but played even with Morehead State in the second half of that game.

"It's going to take some growing pains, but we're definitely going to get through it," Price said optimistically.

Sadler hopes that is the case.

"I do think if we continue to work a little bit each and every day, we'll continue to get better," he said. "At practice they're giving us effort. If that stops, then I will get concerned. They were put in a situation they shouldn't be in. They shouldn't be playing, most of them.

"As long as they will keep working, there will be a light. Right now it's a freaking train coming at us. But at some point, there is going to be a light and we're going to understand it."