USM shuffles Cards
By By Richard Dark/The Meridian Star
JAN. 22, 2001
HATTIESBURG These aren't your father's Louisville Cardinals and currently, the same thing can be said of the Southern Miss Golden Eagles.
In a classic role reversal, the Golden Eagles got clutch rebounding and used tough defense to slap a 69-60 decision on the Cardinals in front of 4,414 raucous fans at Reed Green Coliseum.
The Eagles (14-3, 4-1 in Conference USA) outboarded the Cardinals (6-12, 2-3) 25-9 in the second half and 39-23 for the game to overcome a 10-point deficit from the first half.
And early on, the Eagles weren't hitting the mark. Conversely, the Cardinals were as good as advertised from beyond the 3-point arc.
Louisville senior guard Marques Maybin scored eight of his 17 points in the game's first few minutes including a pair of 3-pointers to help the Cardinals to a 58 percent shooting effort in the first half.
Back-to-back three balls by Rashaad Brooks (10 points) gave Louisville its biggest lead of the game at 28-18 with 4:51 left to play in the first half.
From there, the lead fluctuated from eight to 10 points, as the Eagles shot only 38 percent from the floor heading into the locker room.
USM center Vandarel Jones, who turned in a gutty 17-point, 12 rebound night, got half of his boards in the opening six minutes, but went nearly 11 minutes without pulling down another.
It was USM who responded in the second stanza though, whittling the deficit to a bucket in less than five minutes. A thunderous slam by Jones brought the house down and tied the game at 40 at the 14:17 mark.
After a Reece Gaines (14) free throw gave the Cards their last lead of the night, USM reeled off a 10-0 blitz behind senior David Wall (15) and Mario Myles (11) to boost the Eagles to a 50-41 lead at the 10:48 mark.
But the Cards trimmed the lead to five on a Bryon Northern runner with 3:55 to go, putting U of L in a position to rally in front of the ESPN cameras. But Mel Cauthen (12) capped a small run with a bucket at the 1:35 mark to push it back to 10 and remove all doubt.
Jones added another two-handed flush much to the delight of the throng to give USM its largest lead of the night, 12, with 29 ticks left. Maybin then drained a meaningless three his third for the final margin. USM sank 15-of-19 free throws and dished out 10 assists to go against 10 turnovers. Kilavorus Thompson recorded three of the teams' five blocked shots.
Legendary coach Denny Crum attributed another notch in a subpar Cardinal season to the youth and inexperience of his personnel. "It's hard for me to answer that question," Crum said, when asked if this was the best USM edition he's seen. "I'm not trying to duck it, it's just that we aren't near as good as we have been in the past. Out of the 15 players on our team, we've only got one guy (Maybin) with four years experience."
But the dean of C-USA coaches, in his 30th season, did offer praise for Sunday's victors.
Whether or not the momentum the Eagles are currently riding will be hard to stop remains to be seen. But USM goes for its fifth straight win when it hosts the Houston Cougars at home Wednesday night. As for Louisville, the C-USA road continues to get rockier as the Cards face the Cincinnati Bearcats on the road Wednesday night.
Richard Dark is a sports writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail him at email@example.com.