Southern Miss makes quick work of Alcorn in easy win over Braves

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 14, 2004

HATTIESBURG &045; You could take a six minute stretch in the second half, bottle it up and hold it up for everyone to see.

Alcorn played its best basketball Saturday night in that span against Southern Miss, but DeAndre Jones could really care less about how things went on that point in the game. Up until then the Golden Eagles had their way with the visiting Braves from the Southwestern Athletic Conference, nearly taking a 40-point lead with under 10 minutes left in the second half.

Instead, the Braves used that stretch in the last few minutes for a more respectable score, 82-61, heading into the Christmas break.

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&uot;Too little, too late,&uot; said Jones, the point guard who had 12 points and a team-high seven rebounds. &uot;They’re a well-coached team. That’s what we run into a lot &045; well-coached teams. (Turnovers) is the story of Alcorn basketball. I don’t know. We’re just making a lot of mental mistakes.&uot;

Against an improved Southern Miss club, that was the worst thing the Braves could do. They were out-manned at some positions with bullish Jasper Johnson in the post, and the 6-8, 290 pound senior at times played the role of the speeding 18-wheeler and Alcorn the role of an unlucky bug.

Johnson finished with 23 points and 10 board, but that was just part of the Braves’ problems at Reed-Green Coliseum. The biggest, however, was the 23 turnovers.

&uot;It’s the same ol’ story,&uot; Alcorn head coach Samuel West said. &uot;The same things that’s been happening all season. Leadership is non-existent right now. Point guard play is terrible. We’ve got a lot of work to do, man. A lot of work to do.&uot;

The Braves struggled from the start and never really got into a continuous flow until Johnson and most of the other starters went to the bench with a comfortable lead. The Braves had brief moments where they seemed to be on the verge of putting something together, but a turnover would suck the wind right out of it.

Southern Miss, however, had all the momentum to start the second half, particularly after the Braves got a bucket from Rhau-Chavis Landfair at the 16:59 mark that put the deficit at 53-29. But two free throws from Jason Forte gave the Eagles the momentum right back, and Johnson later put in two buckets to help build a 19-7 run.

Forte hit two free throws with 9:37 left that put the lead at 76-32.

&uot;I think you’re seeing a group that’s playing harder,&uot; USM head coach Larry Eustachy said. &uot;We got away from our game at times, but for a 40-minute game we played the best at periods of time. We got beat in the second half by Alcorn. Alcorn showed a lot of heart.&uot;

It was the final seven minutes where the Braves played their best by executing the offense, playing solid defense and maintaining control of the basketball. Corey Jackson had a bucket on a pass from Patrick Horton after Horton came up with a steal at the 3:39 mark to cap a 13-2 run.

Landfair then dunked one home at the 2:42 mark that put the deficit at 78-54.

&uot;Just a poor exhibition of basketball,&uot; West said. &uot;That’s all. The turnovers were all unforced. Go back and look, and not a one was forced. At some point they’ll have to get ready to do it themselves.&uot;

The Eagles pounded it inside in the first half to Johnson, who had 17 points by halftime. The Braves even through some 2-3 zone at USM in the hopes of taking away the inside game, but a couple 3-pointers kept things rolling for the Eagles.

The Eagles used Alcorn turnovers to make a nice run late in the first half where Alcorn went over five minutes without a field goal. Michael Ford canned a 3-pointer to spark a 20-4 Southern Miss run when the Braves got all three points on free throws.

The Braves finished the first half with 15 turnovers, something they’ve battled at the start of games just about every time out this season. It’s something that may be typical of a team that’s still trying to find an identity with main scorers from a year ago in Brian Jackson and Dion Callans gone, but it remains hard to swallow.

&uot;A little bit (newness), but that’s has a lot to do with it,&uot; Jones said. &uot;A lot of new players. We’re not, I guess, disciplined in the offense we’re doing, and that’s the way the cookie crumbles.&uot;

Johnson put one in from close range with 2:50 left to give the Eagles a 42-14 lead, but Almaad Jackson ended the run with an emphatic dunk on a fast break at the 2:12 mark.

Alcorn then got a 3-pointer from Fred Cole the next trip down the floor, and Jackson later converted a three-point play to cut it to 45-22.