Southern Miss is the only school above The Red Line in the Great Alaska Shootout, although, has this field been assembled last year, all of the teams participating would have been below-the-red-liners. Instead, USM's presence gives the mid-majority three shots at RLUs. The first team to line up and take their shot was UC-Irvine. The Anteaters started off the game 1-for-12 from the field many of them point-blank layups, not exactly a good formula for success if you're going to notch and RLU. Despite the frigid start from the field for the navy-clad UCI bunch, Southern Miss wasn't doing all that much better. They could only muster four points through the first media timeout.
One of the advantages of sitting on the baseline shooting games is that you're often times privy to the "chalk talk" from the coaches during timeouts. On this night however, you didn't need to be sitting baseline to hear what was coming out of the Southern Miss huddle. In fact, all you had to do was be somewhere in the building.
The Eagles are coached by former Iowa State head coach Larry Eustachy, a man whose battle with alcoholism is well documented. Eustachy was clearly not pleased with his team's effort through the first four minutes and he let the players and everyone else in the building know just how displeased he was with a profanity-laced tirade that would make a sailor blush.
The Eagles responded and pushed their lead out to nine but UCI would finally get going and cut USM's lead to four. The lead would waver between five and nine points through the majority of the first half but the Anteaters would use a 9-1 run to cut the Eagles' lead to just one, the end of the run was capped by a three point play. USM would go up by six at halftime behind a mini 5-0 run.
The second half wasn't much better for the Anteaters. USM's lead would swell to 15 but Irvine would manage to keep it respectable. They would never let the lead get past 15 points hitting a few threes along the way but they could only crack the 10-point barrier once, when they cut the lead to nine with 2:40 left to play.
Despite the mostly comfortable lead throughout the second half, the timeout huddles on the USM side were still audible and it was clear that Eustachy was still not pleased with his team's overall play. But on this night, the Eagles were just a little too much for their former below-the-red-line brethren. The field will get two more cracks at a RLU starting with New Mexico State who already has two RLUs in their first four games.
CALIFORNIA-IRVINE 0-4 (0-0) -- C. McNealy 6-14 2-2 15; D. Starring 5-11 3-4 15; M. Wilder 2-8 5-6 11; W. Davis II 3-6 1-1 7; A. Wright 3-6 6-7 13; A. Folker 0-5 1-2 1; D. Flowers 0-0 0-0 0; C. Woods 2-6 1-3 5; M. Best 0-2 0-1 0; M. Bradley 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 21-58 19-26 67. SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI 3-1 (0-0) -- L. Page 5-13 2-3 15; T. Pelham 6-10 4-5 17; M. Bolden 5-12 4-6 14; N. Watson 1-4 8-8 10; A. Johnson 3-9 2-3 9; R. McGill 1-9 0-0 2; J. Mills 2-3 1-1 5; C. Jenkins 1-4 0-0 3; A. Phillips 1-2 1-2 3. Totals 25-66 22-28 78.
Three-point goals: UCI 6-17 (D. Starring 2-4; M. Wilder 2-6; C. McNealy 1-4; C. Woods 0-2; A. Wright 1-1), USM 6-19 (A. Johnson 1-3; R. McGill 0-2; M. Bolden 0-2; T. Pelham 1-1; N. Watson 0-2; C. Jenkins 1-1; L. Page 3-8); Rebounds: UCI 38 (C. McNealy 11), USM 42 (M. Bolden 10); Assists: UCI 11 (D. Starring 3), USM 17 (N. Watson 9); Total Fouls -- UCI 27, USM 24; Fouled Out: UCI-D. Flowers; USM-A. Johnson.