USM wins 10th straight season-opener

Caption: Red shirt sophomore Matt Bingaya goes up for a layup shot against William Carey junior Terrence Mujahid during Friday’s home game.-Aaron J. Stewart/Printz

Southern Miss opened their regular season Friday night against William Carey and got first-year head coach Doc Sadler his first win at USM, 86-63.

The Golden Eagles continued a series of impressive streaks with season-opening wins. They won their tenth straight season-opener, 35th straight home non-conference game and 16th straight home game.

The Golden Eagles struggled for the entirety of the first half and the first couple of minutes of the second half, leading just 42-41 with 17:33 to play in the game. But Matt Bingaya and Shadell Millinghaus, who played in his first game as a Golden Eagle, took over the game for Southern Miss, leading a 20-2 run over the next seven minutes of play.

Bingaya finished with a game-high 20 points and recorded his first double-double of his career with 10 rebounds. Millinghaus tacked on 19 points on 6-7 shooting from the field and converted two-of-three from deep.

“I started the first half kind of shaky; I wasn’t into it. I wasn’t hustling like I usually do,” Bingaya said. “I made it a key point to come out and set the tone (in the second half) so we could get this win and win by a good margin. That’s all I was thinking about when I came in here (at halftime). We had a talk with the team, the team talked to me and told me I got to be more aggressive and that’s what I did.”

Senior Chip Armelin struggled to find his shot throughout the night, connecting on just one of his six three-point attempts. Dallas Anglin provided a nice boost off the bench, scoring 11 points in just 19 minutes, hitting all five of his free throw attempts.

The Golden Eagles will need Armelin to start knocking down those shots from the perimeter as he is the only proven outside threat currently on the roster. Anglin’s presence as a scorer off the bench will also be key as the rest of the reserves struggled, posting just 11 points combined in 63 minutes of play.

While Sadler was pleased with the win, he knows his team has a long way to go before they get to conference play.

“I was very disappointed in three areas: assists – we need to get up to 23 to 24 assists – our turnovers and offensive rebounding,” Sadler said. “Those three areas, for us to have a chance to be decent, we have to be much better at.”

For the game, the Golden Eagles had 17 turnovers and just 16 assists. With such an inexperienced roster, the Golden Eagles will need to drastically improve their ball security and ball movement. They also struggled to get offensive boards, grabbing just nine compared to the Crusaders’ 19. While those numbers certainly have to improve, the Golden Eagles did shoot well from the floor, connecting on 56 percent of their attempts while William Carey made just 38.1 percent of their shots for the game.

With a new defensive scheme in place, playing more man-to-man defense than zone, which Southern Miss used almost exclusively last season, the Golden Eagles excelled all night, forcing the Crusaders into bad perimeter looks and contested shots in the paint. The defense was ruthless all night as they forced 17 turnovers, allowing the Golden Eagles to run in transition, one of their biggest strengths due to the athleticism of Bingaya, Jeremiah Eason and Norville Carey.

In the end, Southern Miss was just too talented for the ninth-ranked NAIA Crusaders. The Golden Eagles outscored the Crusaders 49-30 in the second half and held them to just 11 made field goals in the
second half.

Southern Miss will need to continue the momentum from the second half as they have two big tests against South Alabama (1-0) and Alabama (1-0) this week. The Golden Eagles host South Alabama Monday at 7 p.m. and will travel to Tuscaloosa, Alabama Thursday night to take on the Crimson Tide.