Southern Miss advances to C-USA semifinals

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Tyree Griffin avoids a block attempt and lays the ball up for two points. Photo by: Brad Crowe

FRISCO, Texas— With 3:36 left in the game, Southern Miss held on to a two-point lead at 70-68, but play was forced to come to a halt because of a game clock malfunction. In that time, Southern Miss coach Doc Sadler and Marshall coach Dan D’Antoni joked with one another on the sidelines during the brief lull.

Sadler had simply asked why the 71-year old Marshall coach was still coaching the game.

“Dan is a great coach and [Marshall] is so hard to defend,” Sadler said. “Every now and then you need to laugh during the ball game because every possession in that game was tough. There’s nobody I like competing against more than him because I do think we’re one of the better defensive teams. If you look at everything that we’ve done this year. I think you see that and there’s no question that he’s probably the toughest team to guard so for a coach it’s fun as heck competing against him believe me he’s got the better of me more than I have him.”

Southern Miss’ defense was forced to make a stand as Marshall’s three-point shooting kept the Golden Eagles on the ropes for the duration of the game. However, the Golden Eagles came away with 82-73 win over the Thundering Herd to advance in the C-USA tournament.

The Thundering Herd shot 17-for-37 at the end of the night and was 10-for-21 at halftime beyond the arc.

“Coach always tells us that they can make how may three’s they want but if they are hitting three’s and getting in the lane, then we are going to have a problem,” point guard Tyree Griffin said. “We were just trying to keep the ball out of the lane.”

Southern Miss vs Marshall photo gallery

Southern Miss outplayed Marshall in almost every statistical category, but Marshall managed to only trail Southern Miss 42-38 at the half. By the end of the night, Southern Miss outrebounded Marshall 39-20 and held a 32-20 advantage from the bench.

The game featured 15 lead changes, but the most crucial one came after Sadler’s comical discussion with D’Antoni. A pair of late free throws from Dominic Magee sparked a 9-3 run for the Golden Eagles and was the momentum they needed to close the game out for the win.

The biggest answer to Marshall’s success from three-point range was Southern Miss’ ability to defend inside the lane. Southern Miss outshot the Thundering Herd in the paint 29-10.

Griffin led the team with 23 points and eight assists and LaDavius Draine put up 20 points off the bench. Draine was 6-for-8 behind the three-point line on the night.

“That may have been the best basketball game vie been involved within the five years I’ve been with Southern Miss,” Sadler said. “You could tell both teams had a lot of seniors on the floor and it was just a game that I’ve said all year long. If it comes down to a tied ball game there’s nobody, not just in the conference, but in this country than I would rather have the ball in [Tyree Griffin’s] hands and if we can get that dude a shot than we want to give him a shot.”

Southern Miss will play Western Kentucky at 3 p.m. in the C-USA semifinals at 3 p.m. The game will be televised on the CBS Sports Network.