HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The Golden Eagles' ten-point win over UTSA on Saturday improved their record to 9-8.
USM's ninth win of last season did not come until February 25. That experience a year ago gave the Eagles perspective and is paying dividends this season.
"All the guys got to experience going through those tough times together so it makes us closer," said USM junior guard Cortez Edwards. "It's a lot better. Everybody's happier, even all the guys that were here last year. Everybody's in better spirits. There's a lot more positive energy going through the whole team."
Edwards joins newcomers Tyree Griffin and Dominic Magee as the three Golden Eagles averaging double-figure points.
Another chief reason for the turnaround is USM's 7-0 unbeaten mark inside Reed-Green Coliseum this season.
"Obviously, as I told the team, I really believe in this team," said USM head coach Doc Sadler. "They did what they're supposed to do and that's win at home."
"We knew there were ones we had to get," said USM junior guard Kevin Holland. "I think everybody looks down the schedule and they pick out the ones that are must-wins. Every home game is a must-win from now on."
On the flip side, Southern Miss is just 1-5 on the road this season. Sadler is challenging the Eagles as they get ready for a two-game road trip against two of the top Conference USA teams - UAB and Middle Tennessee.
"You just got to win all your home games," Sadler said. "Then you have to go on the road and beat some good teams and that's the next step. Right now, we've done that, we've won the two games in conference. We got to go to the toughest place - because they're the two best [C-USA] teams - this next week."
"We just got to be mature and play with energy," Edwards said. "We've got an old team so I think we should take that next step."