UTEP freshman Efe Odigie (10 points, 14 rebounds) recorded his 11th double-double but Southern Miss jumped out to a big lead in the first half and never looked back as the Golden Eagles (17-9, 9-5 Conference USA) used hot shooting to top the Miners (8-17, 3-11 C-USA), 77-47, on Saturday afternoon in Reed Green Coliseum.
After being down by 42 points at halftime, the Miners outscored the Golden Eagles, 35-23 in the second half. UTEP shot over 44 percent in the second half and outrebounded its opponent, 25-11. Overall, the Miners outrebounded USM, 36-34.
UTEP, was down 71-21 at one point during the second half, but went on a 16-1 run and finished out the second period, outscoring USM, 26-6.
“That was definitely the challenge in the second half, was to come out and compete as hard as you could and try to win the second half,” first-year UTEP Head Coach Rodney Terry said. “We, obviously, couldn’t play as worse as we did in the first half. I thought our guys came out competed as hard as they could in the second half. We did a much better job.”
Gilles Dekoninck came off the bench, tallied 11 points and grabbed a career-high seven rebounds in 17 minutes of action. Dekoninck scored his first points since Dec. 1 and first points in league action. Nigel Hawkins, who continued his solid play on the road in C-USA games, scored 13 of his 15 points in the second half. Hawkins shot 5-for-7 from the field and 3-of-5 from downtown. Ountae Campbell connected on a three-point bucket and tallied four boards. Campbell led the Miners with two steals, while he and Odigie led the team with a pair of assists apiece.
Southern Miss was led by LaDavius Draine’s 24 points, while Tyree Griffin scored 12 points and dished out eight assists.
C-USA will announce the times and dates for the remaining four games in C-USA “Bonus Play” Saturday night. UTEP is grouped with no. 11 Rice, no. 12 Middle Tennessee and no. 14 Charlotte. The Miners will have home games against Rice and Middle Tennessee, and will play at Charlotte and Middle Tennessee.