The Southern Miss men’s basketball team reached the most wins in a season during the Doc Sadler era with a 77-47 win over UTEP on Saturday. With their win streak now at six games, the Golden Eagles are now 17-9 for the season and 9-5 in C-USA play.
In the first half, Southern Miss held the Miners to just 12 points, which is tied for the fewest points allowed in a half in Conference USA history. Redshirt junior Leonard Harper-Baker quickly gave the Golden Eagles the lead with a jumper at the 17:57 mark of the first half and another less than a minute later.
From there, Southern Miss maintained the lead by making 9-of-15 three-point shots and shooting 65.6 percent from the field versus UTEP’s 16.7 percent. By the end of the half, Southern Miss led UTEP by 42 points with a score of 54-12.
“Going into the game, I thought UTEP was a team that defensively has been playing really well,” Sadler said. “I knew we were going to have to make some shots and we did make some, then it just started snowballing,”
Sophomore guard LaDavius Draine led the team in points in the first half with 18 points. Harper-Baker also added 10 points and seven rebounds.
UTEP gained momentum in the second half by nearly doubling its first-half score at the 11: 37-minute mark. The Miners outscored Southern Miss 35-23 in the half, but the Southern Miss lead was too big for UTEP to overcome.
Southern Miss had nine turnovers in the second half compared to just one in the first. After scoring seven of the first 10 points in the half, UTEP found some momentum and even scored the final six points of the contest.
Draine led the team in points with a total of 24 in the contest, including seven successful three-point attempts.
“I knew when I made the first one [three-pointer], there were a lot more coming,” said Draine. “Tyree and Cortez were driving up lanes, so we just picked open spots and knocked down shots.”
Redshirt senior Tyree Griffin finished with eight assists on the day, bringing his career total to 377. Griffin also had 12 points and four steals against UTEP and is looking ahead to what is next.
“I feel like we can beat anybody right now,” Griffin said. “We are probably playing the best defense in the conference.”
The inaugural C-USA bonus play schedule was also released on Saturday evening. With the win over UTEP and following the conclusion of the other C-USA games, Southern Miss is at third place in the conference standings. They are grouped in a pod with Old Dominion, Western Kentucky, UAB and UTSA and will play each of those teams once.
Southern Miss will play its first bonus play contest against UAB at Reed Green Coliseum on Feb. 23. Tip-off is set for 2 p.m.