HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The University of Southern Mississippi opened play in the Sanford Pentagon Showcase Monday night about 1,100 miles from the site of the round-robin tournament's next three rounds.
Not that the Golden Eagles had any complaints, not when they were playing at home against Blue Mountain College.
USM scored early and often to build a 26 lead in the first half and then swamp the Toppers in the second half of 90-46 victory at Green Coliseum.
"Overall, I was pretty pleased," USM coach Doc Sadler said. "We've got to improve defensively. That's the area where we need to improve, that and cutting down on our mental mistakes.
"In a close game, mental mistakes can get you beat."
The Golden Eagles (2-1), won for the second time in three games with both victories coming against National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics programs, will travel to Sioux Falls, S.D., this weekend for a trio of games in the Showcase.
USM will face the University of South Dakota, 5:30 p.m. Friday; vs. Youngstown State University, 4 p.m., Saturday; Northern Colorado University, 11 a.m., Sunday.
Monday night, the Golden Eagles set season highs for points (90), shooting percentage (53.6 percent), assists (19), rebound margin (+15) and 3-point baskets (11) and 3-point shooting percentage (50.0 percent).
"When the ball's moving, we can be a pretty good team," Sadler said. "When the ball starts sticking, that's when we get into trouble.
"Ball movement and moving our feet, sharing the ball, that's how we're going to have to play if we're going to be successful. We had nineteen assists on 35 baskets, so I don't know how I couldn't be more pleased about that. I'm pretty happy with our effort."
The Golden Eagles put four players in double figures, with junior guard Tyree Griffin leading USM in scoring for a third, consecutive game with a game-high 17 points. Griffin, who made 7-of-10 shots from the floor, also had nine assists and four rebounds.
"I think he's going to be as good a newcomer as there is in (Conference USA) this year," Sadler said.
USM junior guard Anfernee Hampton scored 16 points, making 6-of-9 shots, including 4-of-6 from 3-point range.
Junior guard Cortez Edwards scored 13 points, making 6-of-7 shots from the field, and also had six rebounds and five assists.
Junior forward Eddie Davis scored 11 points, making 4-of-5 baskets. Sophomore forward Tim Rowe and junior guard Dominic Magee each grabbed a game-high seven rebounds.
Junior guard Jaylon Bardley led Blue Mountain (2-2) with 15 points and four rebounds. Bardley shot 6-of-17 from 3-point range.
USM led by as many as 26 points in the first half before settling for a 42-26 halftime lead after the Toppers outscored the Golden Eagles 13-3 over the final 5 minutes, 33 seconds, of the half.
USM led by as many as 50 in the second half.
"We did about as well as I could have expected besides the last six or seven minutes of the first half," Sadler said. "But, all in all, I couldn't be more pleased."