HATTIESBURG-- Louisiana Tech led from start to finish in beating Southern Miss 70-59 in Conference USA men's basketball action Saturday night at Reed Green Coliseum.
And Doc Sadler didn't like it.
The second-year Southern Miss coach said his Golden Eagles could have and should have won the game.
"Disappointing," is how Sadler described the contest. "The game we played them up there (a 30-point loss in Ruston, La.), we were passive. To start the game tonight, we were passive and not aggressive. They're a team you've got to be aggressive against."
Sadler pointed to several statistics to prove his point.
"You hold a team to (37.7) percent from the field and you don't win it -- you've got to take advantage of that. And (USM's) 11 turnovers aren't that many.
"But we missed some easy shots, we missed some free throws. They made the plays. That's what's so frustrating. You hold a team to that percentage and less than 30 percent (29.2) from the 3-point line, at home you should win. But we came up short."
Southern Miss shot 38.2 percent from the field, 21.7 percent (5 of 23) from 3-point land and 66.7 percent (12 of 18) from the free throw line.
The game started well for Tech, as it parlayed two steals in the first 64 seconds to take a 6-0 lead.
After that, the Bulldogs led by as many as 15 points and by as few as three points. But they always led, even when it was 50-47 midway through the second half.
"It was a feeling like you could blow the roof off the gym," said USM's Khari Price, who led USM (5-12 overall, 2-4 C-USA) in scoring with 17 points. "But it seemed like every time we got it down, they would make a 3 here or get a layup here. It seemed that every time we got momentum to peak, they somehow cut it back down. It hurt, it really did."
Erik McCree, a 6-foot-8 junior forward, led Tech (14-5, 3-3) with 25 points. He was followed by Alex Hamilton with 15 and Dayon Griffin with 13.
"They have two really good players (McCree and Hamilton)," Price said. "They go to their best players when they need a basket. No. 2 (McCree) got bucket after bucket after bucket."
After Tech's opening spree, USM got back in the game, trailing only 9-7 on four points by Keljin Blevins and a 3-pointer by Price, but then the Bulldogs stretched their lead to 10, 19-9, on their third 3-pointer of the game, this one by Hamilton, with 13:20 to go in the first half.
It got worse for the home team. The Golden Eagles missed seven straight shots and during that time, Tech went on an 8-0 run to go ahead by 15, 31-16, with 4:45 left in the half. Junior forward McCree, who had 17 points in the first half, scored six of those points.
Although USM went on a 7-0 run, with baskets from Tim Rowe and Price to cut it to 31-20, Tech finished the first half strong and led 38-25 at halftime.
Early in the second half, Southern Miss made another run. By the 12:05 mark, the Eagles trailed only 50-43. Kourtlin Jackson, Blevins, Price and Rowe all had buckets during the run.
Raheem Watts made an inside basket for USM to make it 50-45 and Rowe hit one from outside with 10:21 to play and it was 50-47.
But that was as close as it got.
McCree hit a 3-pointer to stretch the Bulldogs' lead to six points and although USM made it a five-point game, 54-49, when Ramey hit a shot from the corner with 8:55 to play, the Eagles could get no closer.
"The big play was the shot-clock violation," Sadler said. "They knocked it out of bounds and they got possession."
Jackson, a senior, finished the game with 12 points, sophomore Blevins had 12 and freshman Rowe 11 for Southern Miss.
"We've got some young dudes out there," Sadler said. "We had three freshmen against guys who have won close to 90 games in the last three seasons.
"But it is frustrating to lose. At their place, they beat us. At our place, they shouldn't have beat us."
The Eagles had only nine players dressed out. Following the game, Sadler said that former player Jamie Chapman was not in school this semester.