"South Alabama is a tough team," said Southern Miss head coach Donnie Tyndall. "They made it tough for us and we didn't expect them to be as physical as they were. But, our guys were scrappy and gritty. Even though we didn't shoot (the ball) real well at times, we found a way to get back in the game and get over the hump."
Neil Watson and Aaron Brown led Southern Miss with 17 points apiece. Brown also had five rebounds and Watson added three assists to pass Damien Smith for eight-place in school history with 342 career dimes. Jerrold Brooks scored 13 points and Michael Craig contributed 10 points and a game-high eight rebounds.
Southern Miss trailed by only six at halftime, but South Alabama pushed that to 13 over the first 10 minutes of the second half as the Golden Eagles started the half just 2-of-13 from the field. With South Alabama leading 53-40, Brown made one-of-two free throws.
Norville Carey then drew a charge, and Watson was fouled on the ensuing possession, hitting both shots. After a USA turnover, Brooks nailed a three to cut the deficit to 53-46 and forcing a South Alabama timeout. Brown then scored five straight points to pull the Golden Eagles to within 53-51 with 6:28 to play.
After a turnover by Mychal Ammons, Watson and Brown each hit one-of-two free throws to tie the game. Augustine Rubit hit one-of-two from the charity stripe to regain the lead for the Jaguars, but Daveon Boardingham hit a pair of free throws to give Southern Miss its first lead since 5-3.
After Boardingham blocked Ammons three-point attempt, Watson hit a three-pointer of his own to give the Golden Eagles a 58-54 lead with 3:47 to play.
Antoine Allen hit USA's first basket in 7:21, nailing a trey to pull it back to a one-point game. But Watson converter a three-point play, and South Alabama would get no closer.
Michael Craig started things off hitting a layup and one-of-two free throws. Ken Williams tied it by connecting on a three-point play. After Craig hit a jumper, Antoine Allen and Barrington Stevens drilled consecutive three-pointers to give South Alabama a 9-5 lead just 4:35 into the game.
The teams traded baskets. After a layup by Aaron Brown, Augustine Rubit hit two free throws and T.J. Johnson hit a layup to push the lead to six. Jeremiah Eason got a tip-in off a Neil Watson jumper and Michael Craig had a putback dunk to cut the deficit to two. But Aakim Saintil and Allen hit back-to-back three's to give USA a 21-13 lead midway through the first half.
After Southern Miss cut the deficit to five, Williams hit two free throws and then drained a three-pointer to give the Jaguars their largest lead of the half, 26-16, with 6:57 to play.
Rubit led South Alabama with 17 points. Allen scored 14 and Ammons led USA with eight rebounds. Southern Miss shot just 39.6-percent (19-of-48) from the field and was 7-of-17 (41.2%) from behind the arc. The Jaguars were 18-of-42 (42.9%) from the floor, including 7-of-18 (38.9%) from three.
Southern Miss continues the CBE Hall of Fame Classic when it plays Houston Baptist tomorrow at 3 p.m.