It took two hours and 33 minutes to finish the contest between Southern Miss and Mississippi College, but after two overtimes and 72 missed shots later, USM squeaked out a close 96-95 victory over Mississippi College in an exhibition contest on Thursday night.
“I think some people are more disappointed than I am,” said Head Coach Doc Sadler. “Because I think that there are some good things that happened.”
Southern Miss started a rotation of guards Michael Ramey, Bilal Abdur-Rahim, Kevin Holland and Quinton Campbell, joined in the front court with forward Raheem Watts in the opening rotation of the year.
The Golden Eagles did not hold a comfortable lead throughout much of the first half, falling behind by six at 12:31 in the first half as the Golden Eagles were trying to work out the kinks with their almost entirely new team, 17-11. But the slow start on offense was also compounded by forcing ten turnovers from Mississippi College.
Southern Miss did start their season with aspirations of having the best defense in C-USA. But, Mississippi College shot 48.4 percent from the field and 50 percent from deep en route to putting up 95 points.
“Defensively, I was obviously very disappointed,” Sadler said. “The only thing I was disappointed in was our on-the-ball defense. We didn’t take away their three-point shot until about the last five minutes.”
At halftime, the score settled at 42-33 in Southern Miss’ favor, with the buckets being spread all around for the Golden Eagles. Holland finished the first half leading USM with seven points, and Watts and Ramey rounded out the scoring with six points, respectively.
The second half was a lot more tightly contested, coming down to the wire with Southern Miss down 70-69 with 1:39 left to play with sophomore guard D’Angelo Richardson at the line, missing his free throw attempt.
Mississippi College went to the line and tied the game up at 71-all with 53 seconds left in the contest, and Mississippi College was able to have the last possession with 26 seconds left to upset the Golden Eagles.
“I thought the last ten minutes we executed our stuff pretty good,” Sadler said. “Overall, I’m not that disappointed. I thought we were tested and could’ve folded. In the past, our teams didn’t have the toughness to win those games. Our guys battled.”
With 3.5 seconds left on the clock and a side-out, Southern Miss was able to win the contest on a Cortez Edwards pull-up from the free throw line. But, he missed the shot and overtime was on the way.
“We could’ve very easily and probably should’ve lost that game,” Sadler said. “It was very, very close.”
Both teams tugged back and forth as they did during regulation, tying the game up again at 78-all with 1:48 left to play.
No push, no shove and the Golden Eagles again had a chance in overtime to take the contest.
Edwards again was able to close the deal and missed two attempts from point blank range in the paint. With 4.7 seconds left in the time frame, Mississippi College also had an attempt, but missed a fade-away three pointer.
“I wasn’t really thinking, just reacting,” Edwards said. “I wanted to finish the game and get a win.”
The second overtime period was ruled by timely shots as both teams traded three pointers to tie the contest, but Campbell was last to capitalize, putting USM up 90-87 with 1:02 left to play in double overtime.
“Just wanting to win,” Campbell said. “I wanted it more. There was no way we were going to start off the season off with an L (loss). I knew [to] just go out there and play.”
Although they did not cruise to the victory, Southern Miss was able to pull it out on the heels of Campbell’s back-to-back three-pointers to put the Golden Eagles up for good.
“It was definitely a test conditioning wise and how we are as a team,” Campbell said. “That’s the first time we’ve all gotten to play with each other as an actual team. We needed to know where we were.”
Southern Miss will play William Carey on Monday night at 7 p.m. at Reed Green Coliseum.