HATTIESBURG, MS (WLBT) - It took every ounce of energy on the floor, as well as amongst the season-high 4,587 fans in attendance, to will Southern Miss to its fourth consecutive win and seventh victory over its last nine games as it defeated Louisiana Tech 73-71 in overtime on Saturday.
The Bulldogs (15-10, 5-7 C-USA) rallied from a four-point deficit with 34 seconds left to force the extra session, helped by JaColby Pemberton's three-pointer. Southern Miss got on the board in overtime at the 3:25 mark as Cortez Edwards hit a layup at 3:25, tying the game at 64. Later in the session, Kevin Holland picked off a pass to set up a LaDavius Draine three-pointer from the wing with 32 seconds remaining and a 70-66 lead.
LA Tech, on the ensuing possession, picked up a layup and foul, but missed the free-throw. From there, Draine calmly sank two more free-throws to up the lead to 73-68 with seven seconds left.
"Defensively, they are as good as there is in the league," head coach Doc Sadler said. "Every basket is going to be a tough one. In the first half, both teams did such a great job defending. We didn't do a good job early at allowing offensive rebounds, but our first-line defense was playing really well. It went back-and-forth, and we made it tougher on ourselves than it should have been by missing free-throws and not handling full-court pressure. We didn't play smart and tried to hit a home run."
If there ever was a foreshadowing of Draine's clutch shooting, he knocked down a deep one from the top of the key just before the halftime buzzer for a 27-26 lead. It marked the 22nd time Southern Miss has led at the half in 24 home games dating back to the start of the 2017-18 season.
The Golden Eagles held LA Tech to just 38.5 percent shooting, including a 3-for-9 showing in overtime. The Black and Gold were 47.1 percent from the field and went 3-for-5 in the extra session. The squad was also 1-for-8 from beyond the arc until Draine's halftime shot, finishing the night 7-for-11.
"The biggest thing is that we are winning close ballgames," Sadler said. "A lot of credit goes to our seniors in not panicking when you get down and finding the right guy. I'm just really happy. The crowd probably had as big a play in us in winning as anything. Because we had the crowd that we did, they're keeping us in the race.
"For the first time, I couldn't communicate on the other end of the court. That's good. We've lost a lot of close games in here that we would have won if we had that type of crowd today. If we are gonna stay in the thick of it, and we have four home games left, we're going to need that type of crowd. If we do, then I think we will be happy with the end result."
New Orleans Saints star running back Alvin Kamara was sitting courtside at the game, alongside teammate and former Southern Miss star Cameron Tom and legendary former football coach Jeff Bower. The 4,587 in attendance marked the second-best crowd of the Sadler era, bested only by a school-record, 24-point comeback win over UTEP on Senior Day 2015.
Southern Miss (15-9, 7-5 C-USA) remains at home for two games next weekend, beginning Thursday with UTSA at 7 p.m. CT.
-This was Southern Miss' first overtime game since knocking off No. 1 Middle Tennessee in the 2018 C-USA Quarterfinals. The last OT contest in Reed Green Coliseum was a 69-66 win over FIU on Feb. 16, 2017.
-Southern Miss avenged a 71-56 defeat to LA Tech in Ruston on Dec. 29, and has now beaten the Bulldogs twice in a row in Hattiesburg (72-64 on March 3, 2018).
-The Golden Eagles' 24 free-throw attempts were their most since Dec. 15 at Wichita State.
-Cortez Edwards (21 points, 13 rebounds) notched his 13th-career double-double (third this season). The 13 boards also matched a personal-best.
-LaDavius Draine's 22 points were a new career-high. He is 13-for-22 from beyond the arc (59.1 percent) over his last three home games.
-Draine's 6-for-6 foul-shooting puts him at 26-for-31 on the year (team-leading 84 percent).
-Fifteen of Draine's 18-career double-figure scoring games have come against C-USA foes.
-Draine and Edwards give the Golden Eagles back-to-back games of two, 20-point scorers (Edwards and Griffin at FAU on Feb. 2).
-Edwards is the first to have consecutive 20-point games since his streak of four-straight to end the 2017-18 season.