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Southern Miss men, women basketball...

Southern Miss men, women basketball unlucky in the City of Five Flags

By: Hunter Dawkins - March 6, 2023

Pensacola was the site of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament (photo from Hunter Dawkins)

After earning regular season Sun Belt Conference titles, both Golden Eagles teams fall early in Pensacola. They now await their postseason fate.

Although Southern Miss women’s basketball had one victory Friday against opponent Arkansas State, winning 79-72 in the quarterfinals of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament at the Pensacola Bay Center, both Golden Eagles squads – men’s and women’s teams – suffered rough defeats on Saturday and Sunday.

In men’s action, South Alabama (18-15) scored 52 points in the second half on their way to defeating the top-seeded, regular season conference champs Southern Miss Golden Eagles (25-7) in the quarterfinals of the Sun Belt Conference Championship Tournament by a score of 78-61.

The Jaguars Forward Owen White led their team with 23 points, a new season high. South Alabama Guard Isaiah Moore added 17 points and seven assists with only two turnovers, and Greg Parham II also had 17 points off the bench, going 8-of-9 from the free throw line.

Southern Miss Forward Denijay Harris put up 18 points and 12 rebounds to record his second-straight double-double, while going 7-of-12 from the field. The Mississippi product had eight points and eight rebounds at halftime to help Southern Miss take a one-point lead into the locker room, 27-26.

South Alabama ripped off a 9-0 run to take a five-point advantage after half. The eighth-seeded Jaguars maintained that lead for the next four minutes until a Harris jumper tied the game. Picayune point guard Mo Arnold then scored six-straight points to swing the lead back in Southern Miss’ favor.

However, White answered to give South Alabama the lead for good. The Jaguars went on a 20-2 run to make it an 18-point deficit for Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles could never answer the run and ultimately saw their conference postseason hopes slip away.

Southern Miss Guard Austin Crowley added 13 points for Southern Miss and DeAndre Pinckney pulled down nine rebounds. Arnold finished with eight points after being inserted back into the starting lineup today.

“We just found a way to beat a really good team. You don’t go through this league and win the regular season without being a really good team,” said USA Coach Richie Riley.  “Jay [Ladner] has done an incredible job with them. They have really good players. Today, especially in the second half, we were able to find a way to win. That shows how much growth our guys have made throughout the season. They continue to get better, continue to fight, and it showed in the second half. It took a great effort to beat them.”

Southern Miss shot 37.3 percent from the floor for the game and went 4-of-17 from deep. Crowley and Haase each had two three-pointers.

The 2022-23 Sun Belt Conference Coach of the Year, Jay Ladner, spoke highly of Riley and the South Alabama basketball team.

“They’re very well coached, as I’ve known Richie for a while back since the Southland Conference when he was at Nicholls and I was at Southeastern Louisiana,” expressed Ladner, in Southern Miss’ first year as a member of the Sun Belt Conference.  “How in the heck did they finish eighth in this conference, and I say that with respect to the other teams, but we just turned the ball over too much in the wrong situations.”

Southern Miss Head Basketball Coach Jay Ladner speaks to the media following their Sun Belt Conference Tournament loss in Pensacola (photo from Hunter Dawkins)

Additionally, Ladner spoke of the disadvantage USM had with the double-bye against a team that played on the court earlier but was diplomatically happy being added to the conference because of the regional rivalries.

In women’s action on Sunday, the Southern Miss Lady Eagle basketball team fell 85-57 to hot-shooting Texas State, exiting in the semifinals of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament. USM Guard Domonique Davis is the only Lady Eagle to cross the double-figure scoring mark with 20 points as the Lady Eagles postseason ends with a 21-10 record.

Southern Miss Lady Eagles (21-10, 13-5) fell to Texas State (23-8, 13-5) by a 28-point margin. The Bobcats now hold a 3-0 all-time advantage after defeating the Lady Eagles in all three meetings this year.

The loss is the earliest a third-seeded Lady Eagle squad has fallen in a conference tournament, previously advancing to the championship in every season. Southern Miss is now 39-36 all-time in conference tournaments.

Five minutes into the game, both squads stood tied at eight apiece before Texas State rode a 12-0 run from the media timeout to a 20-8 lead with just over a minute left in the opener. Southern Miss managed to make it a 20-11 game after the first ten minutes.

USM Women’s Basketball warms up in Pensacola for the Sun Belt Conference Tournament. (photo from Hunter Dawkins)

Southern Miss again played a close second quarter, holding the Bobcats scoreless from the 5:58 mark until the three-minute mark of play. Texas State did not connect on a field goal attempt until 2:01 left in the second quarter.

Coming out of the locker room, Southern Miss faced an eight-point deficit. Texas State, though, took advantage of every opportunity, shooting 50.0 percent overall and 4-of-7 from beyond the arc in the third frame.

Southern Miss did not score a point until the 5:21 mark in the quarter and did not make their first field goal until the 2:41 mark as Texas State hung an 18-5 margin in the third. The Lady Eagles posted a 1-of-18 shooting performance in the quarter.

Playing catchup, Southern Miss managed 19 points in the final frame, but Texas State connected on 10-of-15 field goals from the floor to push their advantage to the final 85-57 margin.

The Men’s Basketball team at Southern Miss earned an automatic berth to the National Invitational Tournament after winning the Sun Belt regular season title last week while the ladies await the decision of the WNIT selection committee next week to see if the Lady Eagles will suit up once again this season.

Despite their tournament woes in Pensacola, both teams earned regular season titles in their first year as members of the Sun Belt Conference.

About the Author(s)
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Hunter Dawkins

Hunter Dawkins has been the Publisher/Owner of The Gazebo Gazette since 2017. Prior to operating the Gazebo Gazette, Dawkins was a teacher and coach in Mississippi and Louisiana. He also previously worked for the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office as a Public Relations Assistant and was a staffer on Capitol Hill. Learn more about the Gazebo Gazette by visiting