HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - A pair of postmen delivered for The University of Southern Mississippi Monday night at Green Coliseum.
Sophomore forward Tim Rowe had a season-high 17 points and career-high nine rebounds, while senior forward Raheem Watts scored a career-high 19 points and grabbed five rebounds to help the Golden Eagles past Alabama A&M University 63-55.
"We had some positives in this game, definitely," USM coach Doc Sadler said. "We had 21 baskets made, and assists on 18 of them, and you're always happy about that."
USM also outrebounded A&M 37-22 and while not shooting lights-out from the floor (45.7 percent from the field; 23.1 percent from 3-point range), the Golden Eagles knocked down a season-best 85 percent of their free throws (18 of 21).
Watts hit 7 of 8 free throws, while Rowe went 6 for 6 from the foul line.
"I think this can be a really good basketball team, but we've got a long way to go," Sadler said.
The Golden Eagles (3-1) remained unbeaten at home, while the Bulldogs (0-4) dropped their fourth consecutive road game to open the season.
The win, however did not come easy.
A&M led by seven points twice in the first half before USM began pounding the ball inside. The Golden Eagles led 38-27 at halftime, with Watts scoring 13 points and Rowe adding 11 over the first 20 minutes.
"In the first half, we got the ball inside 11 times and scored on nine of them," Sadler said. "I like those odds."
Sadler was not as pleased with his team's second-half showing, with Bulldogs outscoring the Golden Eagles 28-25 after the break.
"We have got to get that intensity defensively that every possession has got to be a stop," Sadler said. "And we're just not there yet."
USM led 47-36 on a pair of free throws by Robert Thomas III with 12:23 to play in the half, but a 9-0 run by A&M cut the lead to 47-45 at the 9:43 mark.
Rowe followed baskets by Michael Ramey and Eddie Davis III with a pair of his own down low as the Golden Eagles pushed the lead back to double digits.
But the Bulldogs kept nipping away. After a jumper in the lane by guard Kevin Holland put USM up 61-53, A&M guard De'Ederick Petty hit a 3-pointer and a driving bucket on back-to-back possessions to get the Bulldogs within 61-55 with 50 seconds to play.
But those were A&M's final points, and Rowe hit two free throws with 19.8 seconds to play for the Golden Eagles' final pad.
Petty led the Bulldogs with 10 points, while forward Quinterian McConico added eight points and six rebounds.
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