Tournament Time!

Tournament Time!

The Golden Eagles wrapped up a record setting regular season Saturday night with a win over Central Florida. The 12 wins in conference set a record for the most wins in conference USA for USM, and at 23-8 the Eagles are poised for a post season run. We caught up with Coach Donnie Tyndall to reflect back on the season and to take a look ahead at keys to winning the Conference USA tournament.

Dwayne Davis scored 34 points to lead the Eagles over the Knights of Central Florida Saturday night in the regular season finale.

With the win, Southern Miss moved to 23-8 on the season, and a 12-4 mark in Conference USA play.

The win was special for Coach Donnie Tyndall for two reasons. The win set a record for the most wins for the Eagles since joining Conference USA, and it also meant a win for Jonathan Mills, Rashard McGill, and Dwayne Davis in what could be their final game at Reed Green Coliseum.

"I thought our kids fought back from a tough loss at Marshall, and it was a big win for a lot of reasons, especially it being senior night," Coach Tyndall said in an afternoon interview with GoldenEaglePride.com.

"I really thought we defended better and we limited our turnovers. It was a tough game because Central Florida is a really good team, they won 20 games and were picked in the top three in our league.

"We competed well, and the guys found a way again to step up and get the win. I think we found some momentum and that can help us going into the tournament."

When asked to talk about the foundation that was laid by seniors Jonathan Mills, Dwayne Davis, and Rashard McGill, Coach Tyndall pointed out a common thread about them all.

"All three guys are so valuable and in different ways," he said. "The common theme is that they've all been proud to wear a Southern Miss uniform.

"They give us different type of leadership. Dwayne Davis loves basketball, and he's taken a role of doing what we need in games to get the win. Jonathan has been a lead by example guy and is so unselfish that other guys just follow him. He's always doing the little things that help your team win.

"Rashard is an unassuming guy who speaks when he needs to, and his practice habits are contagious. He's played three different positions, and he's always doing everything we've asked him to. He's also led us well, and I'm so glad we could go out with a win for these three guys."

Coach Tyndall speaks with great pride in his players when he reflects back to what they were able to get accomplished together last season.

"We broke the conference record for wins in getting 12, and that would be a great starting point," he said. "Also having a chance to break the school record of 25 wins is another number that sticks out.

"Saying that, I think the thing I'm most proud of is the fact that at the beginning of the year we had the most inexperienced team in college basketball and we went on the road for 10 of our first 13 games.

"It would have been an easy time to lose a few and put our heads down, and just hope we can be .500 this year. I think our guys bought in early and that allowed them to win some games like Georgia, Georgia State, and at Morehead State to name a few.

"The bottom line is we went on the road and won early, and our confidence just took off from there."

As Coach Tyndall looks ahead, he has plenty of experience in these "win or go home" tournament settings. With the Conference USA tournament looming, Coach said he's focused on his team playing their typical aggressive style.

"Today it will be just about our team and how we'll start preparing for both opponents whether it is UAB or SMU," he said.

"My last four years at Morehead State we've played in three Championship games and won 2 of them, so we've had some experience in the tournament setting.

"I think we've had that success because I try to get my team to play to win and not to play to not lose. I think a lot of teams at tournament time play not to lose and get a little hesitant because they know they could end the season.

"I want our team aggressive, playing in attack mode, and playing with a swagger. I don't want us afraid to make mistakes or afraid to fail. If you start playing not to lose your demeanor and your complexion changes."

In the tournament setting, its a brand new season for everyone. Coach Tyndall knows his #2 seeded Eagles have as much of a shot as any to win it.

"I think like its been all year, we have to defend and rebound like we have," he said. "We are right at the top in rebounding margin and we have to rebound well.

"I think thirdly it comes down to limiting our turnovers, and we have to couple that with taking good shots. A bad shot is like a turnover because it leads to a scoring opportunity for the opponent.

"Finally we have to play with confidence and be in attack mode. We can't be afraid to fail in tournament time. If we can do those things, we certainly have a shot to win it."

We can debate all day about what it will take to make the NCAA tournament, but there is only one way to be certain, and that's to win it. Regardless, if the Eagles do make the Big Dance, Coach Tyndall has promised to show the moves that made the Eagles Harlem Shake famous.

"If we get to the NCAA tournament, I'll pull out something out of my bag," he said, laughing. "I'll dance again if we get in, trust me."

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