Redshirt senior Kevin Holland nailed a three-point jump shot at the buzzer to put Southern Miss up 40-26 at halftime. Three-point shooting was the key in Southern Miss’ 81-46 win over UTSA on Senior day and secured the No. 3 for the Conference USA tournament.
“How could you script anything better?” Southern Miss coach Doc Sadler said. “Make 16 threes against a team that has two great players and you’re playing still for a bid as far as the bye in the conference tournament. You’re also playing for maybe an opportunity to make the NIT tournament. I’m very pleased and happy for the five seniors and the rest of the guys also.”
Southern Miss (19-11, 11-7 C-USA) took its first double-digit lead 32-21 on a three-point jumper but UTSA (17-14, 11-7) quickly responded with a 5-0 run. However, the Golden Eagles answered back and broke the game open with an 8-0 run to close out the first half.
The Golden Eagles shot 47 percent in the game shooting 16-for-34 behind the three-point line.
Leading that category was Dominic Magee where 12 of his team-leading 19-point performance came from 3-pointers. It was the second most three-pointers made in school history, with the most occurring in the 2013 sanctioned season.
Another key difference was Southern Miss outscoring UTSA 33-9 from the bench. Despite the team’s offensive success, the unsung hero was the Golden Eagle defense.
“If we shoot like we did today then we’re going to have a chance to play with anybody and maybe win,” Sadler said. “Defensively I’m not concerned at all. I think we ended up second in defensive field goal percentages behind old dominion. But offensively were leading the league in offensive efficiency, were leading it in field goal percentage, were leading it in assist to turnover ratio so offensively and defensively we’re playing as good as well as we can play.”
Southern Miss has held teams to an average of 64.7 points per game and has not allowed a team to score over 80 points all season.
“I think defensively we’ve picked it up in the last seven or eight games,” Sadler said “We’re playing well. There were several teams in that span that was averaging over 80 [points] and we’re holding them in the 60s and low 70s. You have got to be proud of our defense.”
The Golden Eagles are the third team in the last decade in C-USA to earn a bye after starting 0-3 in conference play. Southern Miss will get a bye for the first round of the tournament and will play the winner of the No. 6 seed and No. 11 seed on Thursday and is expected to play at 9 p.m.