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Curbelo’s career night fuels Southern Miss to 78-74 win over Texas State

Andre Curbelo converts a layup during the first half against Texas State on Saturday (Photo courtesy of USM Athletics)

When push came to shove, there was no way Southern Miss point guard Andre Curbelo wasn’t going to play in Saturday’s game against Texas State, and Golden Eagle faithful are mighty grateful he did.

A career-high 24 points for Curbelo, who returned to the court for the first time in over a month after suffering a concussion on Jan. 6, fueled Southern Miss to a 78-74 win over the Bobcats.

How it happened

Southern Miss (15-12, 8-6 Sun Belt) started strong and took an early lead, but then, the injury bug struck again. With under 11 minutes to play in the first half, starting power forward Victor Iwuakor left the game after a hard fall with the Golden Eagles up 19-14.

Texas State (11-16, 4-10) used Iwuakor’s absence to attack the rim, going on a 24-14 run to take a five-point lead into halftime.

As the Golden Eagles have done time and time again this season, the first-half deficit didn’t faze them as the team regained the lead on a Curbelo jumper with 13:16 left. The Bobcats stayed within five for the remainder of the game, but the Golden Eagles played clean basketball and were able to finish on top.

What the coach said

After the game, interim head coach Juan Cardona gave reporters some insight into Curbelo’s highly anticipated return.

“When we lost the game against ULM on Thursday, Friday morning [Curbelo] was waiting for me in my office,” Cardona said. “He said, ‘Juan, I’m not 100 percent, but I can’t leave my brothers to fight without me. You guys have been so good to me. That’s the least I could do.’”

The decision paid off as Curbelo was exactly the spark the Golden Eagles needed to get back in the win column. Cardona added that as the point guard gets some additional practices in, hopefully, his play will peak just at the right time with the Sun Belt tournament a little over two weeks away.

“We saw what Andre is capable of doing, and it’s only a start,” Cardona said.

Numbers don’t lie

In addition to Curbelo’s big day, guard Austin Crowley continued his string of solid performances with 19 points, five rebounds, and five assists. Southern Miss picked up its fifth win of the season when trailing at halftime and shot over 50 percent from the floor for the fourth time this season. The Golden Eagles bounced back from an atrocious 10 turnovers in the first half to give the ball away just three times in the second.

Next up

Southern Miss will host eastward rival South Alabama on Thursday night in Hattiesburg. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. CT and will air on ESPN+.

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