Tyndall: "Couldn't Be Prouder Of This Team"

The Golden Eagles have been rewarded for an outstanding season with a birth to the NIT tournament and a #1 seed. The Eagles are set to square off with Charleston Southern Wednesday night in Hattiesburg. We talked with head coach Donnie Tyndall after practice this afternoon to talk about the season and the upcoming NIT tournament.

Southern Miss came oh so close to the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, in the way they battled Memphis in the final of the Conference USA tournamet.

After the news of the #1 seed in the NIT had settled in, Coach Tyndall reflected on the season it took to get to this point.

"I thought we competed for 50 minutes, and I thought it was one of those games where they made one more play than we did, and we had our chances," Coach Tyndall said after practice this afternoon.

"The bottom line was that where our team was projected to be and where we started, it is remarkable to see where we've come. I hope we can keep it going for a little while longer in the NIT."

The message to the team in the Conference USA tournament was to play always in attack mode, and just simply not be afraid to lose. In the "win or go home" scenario of the NIT, Coach said that will be the message again this week in practice.

"We want to be aggressive, and the biggest thing is that we want to play to win," he said. "There is a distinct difference in playing to win and in playing not to lose.

"I thought in the post season we played to win, and we certainly hope to do the same thing here again in the NIT."

Coach Tyndall has plenty of experience in the big tournament as being the "giant killer" with several of his teams at Morehead State. As the #1 seed, he's having to approach the game with a slightly different perspective.

"I think first of all we are very prideful to be a number one seed because the committee respected what we did over the course of the season," he said.

"That's important for the image of our program as well and as we head into the future. To be able to say that we are where we are with schools like Kentucky, Virginia, and Alabama.

"Every team in this tournament is a quality team with great players and outstanding coaches."

One unique aspect of the NIT is the chance to play again in front of the home crowd. As a show of appreciation for the Southern Miss fans, Coach Tyndall today purchased 1,000 student tickets. The first 1,000 students to the game get in free, thanks to the head man.

"Well I just think it is fantastic for our young guys to continue to play in front of our home fans who have been great for us all year long," he said.

"I was told this has been our best student turn-out in 20 or 25 years, and I wanted to reward those young people for standing behind us this year. It is my way of saying thank you to them. I think it gives our fans the chance to stand behind our team again, a team that has been a tough, scrappy, group all year long.

"If we were to finish this thing the right way, they could go down as one of the favorite teams in Southern Miss history."

Coach Tyndall couldn't be prouder of the way his team has responded.

"These guys bought in last summer, and the chemistry has been there all along," he said. "It starts at the top with guys like Jonathan Mills.

"It happened much more quickly than I thought it could. Usually inexperienced teams lead to losing seasons, and I thought this team bucked that trend and turned things around. I couldn't be prouder of them."

For the Eagles to continue the run, they'll have to get by a tough, scrappy team in their own right, Charleston Southern.

"I think the biggest thing is that they are a very dangerous team because they play a four guard line up, and they love to space you out because they shoot it very well," he said.

"Now you've got to get out and guard the three point line against four perimeter players who can all drive, draw, and kick. We'll have to be very good at guarding at the three point line, and also limiting their penetration against our zone.

"We had a great practice today and I feel like we'll be ready Wednesday night."

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