Coming off of a 73-71 overtime win over Louisiana Tech on Feb. 9, Southern Miss (16-9, 8-5 C-USA) earned a 78-71 comeback win against UTSA on Thursday night at Reed Green Coliseum.
“I thought we got off to a slow start,” Southern Miss head coach Doc Sadler said. “It was so much talk about how there was going to be 4-5 thousand people here and I thought that affected us. We got too much to play for and we can’t allow those type of things to affect our game. UTSA is a hard team to play against and they were one game out of first place so you got too happy about that.”
Southern Miss got off to a slow start in the contest, allowing UTSA to gain a 23-12 lead at one point in the first half. The Golden Eagles struggled from three-point range, converting just 1-of-5 attempts. That one successful attempt was a three-pointer by freshman Gabe Watson with one second remaining in the half that closed out a 10-2 Southern Miss run and gave the team a 32-31 lead at the halftime break.
Senior guard Cortez Edwards led Southern Miss at the half with a total of eight points and three rebounds. Junior Leonard Harper-Baker also pitched in with six points and five rebounds.
At the start of the second half, Southern Miss picked up right where they left off. The Golden Eagles extended their lead to 52-39 at the 14:03 mark of the game. Efficient defense and a 50 percent three-point percentage in the second half helped Southern Miss to push its lead down the stretch.
UTSA inched closer to the lead with a layup that cut Southern Miss’ lead to 67-64 with 4:11 remaining but a subsequent three-point shot by sophomore LaDavius Draine stopped the UTSA rally. Harper-Baker hit two free throws in the final 30 seconds to
The Golden Eagles are one of the hottest teams in Conference USA as of late, as they currently sit 8-5 in conference play and sport a 9-2 record at Reed Green Coliseum. Southern Miss has now won five games in a row and has emerged victorious in eight of its last 10 contests.
“We beat a very good basketball team,” Sadler said. “They were above us, we got to a slow start and we showed toughness and game back. That’s what seniors do and they flipped the switch on their own.”
Edwards led Southern Miss with 24 points and nine rebounds, while redshirt senior Tyree Griffin was behind him with 18 points and six rebounds. Harper-Baker also came up with a double-double against the Roadrunners with 14 points and 12 rebounds. The Golden Eagles shot 46 percent from the field while outrebounding UTSA 41-40.
Southern Miss will face UTEP at Reed Green Coliseum on Saturday, Feb. 16. Tip-off is set for 2 p.m.