Southern Miss edges South Alabama, 71-67

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Three days after a 78-72 loss to crosstown opponent William Carey, the Southern Miss men’s basketball team earned a 71-67 home win over non-conference opponent South Alabama on Wednesday night.

“I’m just glad we came out and played with passion and energy,” Head Coach Doc Sadler said. “If we don’t turn the ball over and we play with passion and play with energy, then that’s all you can ask for. Us winning tonight was a big win for us.”

The Golden Eagles jumped out to an early 17-1 lead in the first half. Redshirt seniors Kevin Holland and Tyree Griffin hit back-to-back three-point shots for Southern Miss’ first points of the game. Senior guard Cortez Edwards helped the Golden Eagles expand their lead over the Jaguars with 18 points in the half, including two three-pointers.

“I tried to come in focused, come in aggressive just to set a tone,” Edwards said. “It didn’t matter if it was offensively or defensively, but it turned out to be offensively, so I just tried to keep it rolling, just to give us a boost.”

Defensively, Southern Miss forced 10 turnovers, but South Alabama converted 7-of-11 three-point attempts in the half. Still, Southern Miss entered halftime with a 43-36 lead over the Jaguars. The Golden Eagles converted 63 percent of their field goals in the half.

In the second half, both teams struggled to create shots and maintain separation score-wise. Southern Miss was only 1-of-11 from the three-point line and 9-of-27 overall after halftime. A South Alabama layup at the 17:54 mark put the Jaguars within two points of the Golden Eagles at 46-44. With 10:13 left to play, a three-point shot by South Alabama tied the game at 54-54.

The two teams went through four lead changes during the remainder of the half, but Griffin sealed the game for Southern Miss with two free throws with nine seconds remaining, giving the team a four-point win.

Overall, Edwards led the team with 19 points on the night, 18 of which came in the first half. Redshirt junior forward Leonard Harper-Baker was right behind Edwards with 18 points, as well as Griffin. Harper-Baker also added a team-high eight rebounds in the contest.

One of the other notable stats of the night comes from the turnover category. Southern Miss forced 17 South Alabama turnovers and scored 27 points off of those turnovers.

With the win, Southern Miss improves to 5-2 on the season. The team will return to the court at Reed Green Coliseum on Dec. 2 to take on Rust College. Tip-off is scheduled for 2 p.m.