By The Associated Press
HATTIESBURG — Jonathan Mills scored 18 points to lead Southern Miss to a 78-74 win over Central Florida on Saturday night.
Mills, who went 12 of 13 from the foul line, scored nine straight points for the Golden Eagles (21-4, 8-2 Conference USA) during a pivotal 14-6 second-half run. The spurt helped Southern Miss recover from a 52-51 deficit after Central Florida took its first lead.
Central Florida (18-7, 7-4) pulled within two points with 47 seconds left, but the Golden Eagles made 10 of their 12 free throws in the final 1:27 to put the game out of reach.
Southern Miss outscored Central Florida 29-12 from the foul line.
LaShay Page and Neil Watson each scored 15 points for Southern Miss. Torye Pelham had 12 points, and Watson also had eight assists.
Watson, Pelham and Darnell Dodson were the only three players to come off the bench for Southern Miss, but almost doubled their UCF counterparts 30-16.
Central Florida’s Isaiah Sykes had a game-high 27 points on 11-of-14 shooting.
The Golden Eagles has at least preserved a tie for first place with Memphis with the win.
Southern Miss built a 10-point halftime lead making 14-of-26 (54 percent) first-half shots, while Central Florida went 0-for-7 from 3-point range and just 1-of-3 from the free throw line.
Southern Miss has won six of seven and 17 out of 19 since the beginning of December.