Southern Miss (17-11, 9-7 C-USA) dropped its second straight bonus play game Sunday on the road against the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers. Despite a 71-point performance by the Golden Eagles, a late second-half surge lifted the home team to a 76-71 victory.
Many of the game’s statistics were in favor of Southern Miss, who led 39-37 at halftime after a tightly contested first 20 minutes of competition. The Golden Eagles shot 52 percent from the field in the contest, went 9-for-18 from the perimeter, and scored 15 baskets off of assists, compared to just eight by the Hilltoppers.
After putting up 39 points in the first half of action, head coach Doc Sadler’s team hit a brief dry spell in the second half that allowed Western Kentucky to capture the lead at the 15:04 mark in the second half and hold it until the final buzzer sounded.
Despite the loss, Southern Miss received solid offensive work from several players. Redshirt senior Tyree Griffin once again led the unit in scoring with 21 points to go along with nine assists and a rebound. Sophomore LaDavius Draine went 7-for-15 shooting on the day for a total of 16 points, and redshirt senior Dominic Magee was 5-for-7 on shot attempts for 12 points and eight rebounds off the bench.
The difference, however, was a notable absence of production from senior Cortez Edwards. Edwards, who played 36 minutes in the contest, was 1-for-5 from the field with four points, four rebounds and one assist.
Following the end of Southern Miss’ six-game winning streak that dated back to Jan. 26, against Marshall, the Golden Eagles have now lost two in a row to UAB and Western Kentucky and have just two games remaining in bonus play before the arrival of the Conference USA Tournament, which will be played in Frisco, Texas.
Bonus play was implemented by C-USA to give teams an opportunity to boost their resumes and strength of schedule before the postseason, and the Golden Eagles are quickly running out of opportunities to take advantage of the new format.
Southern Miss’ next game will be played on the road against the No. 1 team in the C-USA standings, Old Dominion. The Monarchs are currently riding a seven-game win streak and are 1-0 versus the Golden Eagles this year after a 76-62 victory back on Jan. 19.
Following the team’s contest against the Monarchs, Southern Miss will return to Hattiesburg for the last home game of the season in Reed Green Coliseum against UTSA, a team they played well in a 78-71 win roughly two weeks ago on Feb. 14.