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Southern Miss men’s basketball steamrolled by South Alabama 83-64

Southern Miss guard Austin Crowley drives into the lane Thursday night against South Alabama (Photo courtesy of USM Athletics)

After being held scoreless for nearly the first five minutes of play, nothing got better for the Southern Miss men’s basketball team on Thursday night.

Facing off against South Alabama in Hattiesburg, the Golden Eagles (15-13, 8-7) couldn’t find any chemistry as the Jaguars (14-14, 6-9) rolled on to an 83-64 win behind Samuel Tabe’s 29 points.

How it happened

Southern Miss didn’t score until Mo Arnold hit a jumper with 15:17 left in the period to make the score 7-2 in South Alabama’s favor. Even with a fully healthy roster for the first time all season, the Golden Eagles couldn’t hit many shots, turned the ball over too many times, and allowed the Jaguars to go for one of their best offensive performances of the season.

After shooting 26.3 percent from the floor in the first half and under 15 percent from beyond the arc, Southern Miss trailed 36-28 at halftime. The Golden Eagles pulled it within eight with seven minutes to play, but the Jaguars responded with a big run to hold a 22-point lead with two minutes left. South Alabama then put in a handful of substitutes and was able to hold its poise at the end and walk out of Reed Green Coliseum with a big win.

What the coach said

Now 3-2 since head coach Jay Ladner took a leave of absence due to a medical emergency, interim head coach Juan Cardona said there was no excuse for how the team played on Thursday night.

“I certainly don’t look for excuses. As I told the guys, we haven’t been to the (NCAA) Tournament in 12 years,” Cardona said. “You multiply 365 by 12, and you know the days we have worked to get back to the tournament. It’s about how much you can keep moving forward.”

Cardona expressed the need for the Golden Eagles to once again find that chemistry fans have seen on and off this season before the Sun Belt Conference tournament begins on March 5. With three regular-season games left, Southern Miss’ only chance of making the NCAA Tournament is by winning the conference tournament.

“It’s all about being great one weekend. Now, we do want to have rhythm, but I want everyone to keep their heads up and focus on the big picture.”

The numbers don’t lie

Leading the stat sheet for Southern Miss was Victor Hart with 13 points and 12 rebounds. Cobie Montgomery added 14 points while Austin Crowley had 11.

Even after outrebounding the Jaguars 13-4 on the offensive glass, it was the inability to make shots that hurt the Golden Eagles the most. Southern Miss shot 34.9 percent for the game while South Alabama put together a 52.1 percent clip, including a 62 percent mark from beyond the arc.

Next up

Southern Miss will host Louisiana on Saturday night with tip-off set for 6 p.m. It will be senior night, honoring Donovan Ivory, Mo Arnold, Victor Iwuakor, Tate Ryder, Victor Hart, and Austin Crowley.

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