HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Home proved to be sweet for the University of Southern Mississippi Thursday night.
After returning from the rough sojourn on the road, the Golden Eagles built a 23-point lead in the second half and then held off a late University of Texas-El Paso rally to secure an 85-75 Conference USA victory at Green Coliseum.
For the first time this season, USM had five players score in double figures, and the Golden Eagles shot a blistering 74.1 percent in the second half to put up the most points the Miners have allowed this season.
The Golden Eagles (8-8, 1-2 C-USA), back at home for the first time after dropping four consecutive road games, snapped that skid with their first conference win of 2017-18 season.
UTEP (6-9, 1-2), which was playing its ninth game under interim Head Coach Phil Johnson after the abrupt, Nov. 27 resignation by long-time coach, Tim Floyd, lost for the third time in its last four games.
USM junior guard Dominic Magee scored a game-high 21 points, hitting 9-of-11 shots. He also grabbed a game-high eight rebounds and dished out four assists.
USM junior guard Tyree Griffin scored 19 points, 17 in the second half on 8-of-11 shooting, and added a game-high six assists. Junior guard Corey Edwards, who hit 6-of-8 shots, scored 14 points, handed out three assists and came up with four of the Golden Eagles' 14 steals.
Junior guard Kevin Holland added 10 points, four rebounds and two steals and senior guard DeAngelo Richardson came off the bench for 10 points and two steals.
UTEP was led by sophomore reserve guard Isaiah Osborne, who came off the bench for 17 points, senior guard Omega Harris and senior center Matt Williams added 11 points and junior guard Trey Touchet added 10 points.
A game after knocking down 12 treys against Rice University, the Miners hit 11 Thursday night, including three apiece by freshman guard Kobe Magee, Osborne and Harris. Six of the 11 treys came in the final 9:09 of the game, as UTEP cut into a 23-point deficit.
But the Golden Eagles used defensive pressure to force the Miners into 17 turnovers, then turned those miscues into 17 points.
USM led by 11 points at halftime, 35-24, as the Miners struggled to find their shooting touch, missing nine of their first 10 shots.
Edwards (5-of-5) and Magee (4-of-5) each scored 10 points in the first half, combining to make 90 percent of their attempts from the floor. But the rest of their Golden Eagle teammates only hit 6-of-21 shots (28.5 percent), as USM finished 15-of-31 (48.4) from the field in the opening 20 minutes.
UTEP junior forward Paul Thomas followed up a miss at the 16:47 mark for the first score of the game, but 20 seconds later, Magee swished the first of his three 3-pointers to give USM a lead it would not relinquish.
Griffin, who had just two points at halftime, scored nine of USM's first 12 points to start the second half to push the lead out to 49-34. Following a driving bucket by Edwards, Magee hit three, consecutive baskets to give the Golden Eagles' their first lead of 20-plus points at 57-36 with 13:15 to play.
USM's lead hit 23 twice, the second on Holland's 3-pointer with 9:39 to play.
The Golden Eagles will remain home Saturday, welcoming University of Texas-San Antonio at 4 p.m. for a C-USA game at Green Coliseum.