ANCHORAGE – Senior forward Torye Pelham had a career-high 17 points Thursday night to lead Southern Mississippi to a 78-67 victory over UC Irvine in the opening round of the Carrs/Safeway Great Alaska Shootout at Sullivan Arena.

The Golden Eagles (3-1) also got 14 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks from guard Maurice Bolden, plus 10 points, nine assists and a pair of steals from reserve guard Neil Watson.

The Anteaters (0-4) were led by 15 points and 11 rebounds from guard Chris McNealy and 15 points from guard swingman Daman Starring.

USM held UCI to just 1-of-12 shooting to start the game and held onto the lead throughout. The Anteaters drew within 25-24 late in the first half, but the Golden Eagles answered with a 9-0 run that spanned halftime and left the Conference-USA squad in control. USM pushed its largest lead to 15 on five occasions, the last coming on Watson’s layup at the 6:16 mark, making it 61-46.

The Golden Eagles now move into Friday’s late semifinal (8 p.m. AST) against New Mexico State, while the Anteaters will play in the consolation semis against Central Michigan on Friday at 2 p.m.