HATTIESBURG, MS (WLBT) - The Southern Miss men's basketball team raced out to a 54-12 halftime lead and never looked back for a 77-47 win over visiting UTEP on Saturday afternoon. The Golden Eagles, currently third in Conference USA, now await the dates and opponents for their final four regular-season games, per the league's inaugural pod format.
The Golden Eagles (17-10, 9-5 C-USA) held UTEP to scoring droughts of 5:34 and 5:39 throughout the first half. The 12 points tied for the fewest allowed in a C-USA game in league history (previously set by UAB against Tulane and SMU in 2011 and 2012, respectively). It also matches the second-fewest by a C-USA team against any opponent.
"What a game. I'm obviously very happy and never saw that coming," head coach Doc Sadler said. "Going into the game, I thought UTEP, defensively, had been playing very well. I was concerned by the way they guard that we were going to have to make some shots. It started snowballing. I think the biggest thing, defensively, is that over the last six or seven games that our team has really started to believe in themselves."
UTEP went 4-for-24 from the field in the first half, while LaDavius Draine went 6-for-7 for 18 points and Leonard Harper-Baker was 5-for-7 for 10.
But for Sadler, it always came back to setting a defensive tone.
"People are going to make some three-pointers, but I always believed that, just like in baseball, you have to be strong up the middle," he said. "We're trying to take away the lane. When you shoot the ball like we did in the first half, and with the way they struggled, you're going to get halftime scores like that. I'm happy with the way our team is playing right now."
The six-game win streak continues as the longest of the Sadler tenure, and the 17 wins are the program's most since the 2012 NCAA Tournament squad (2012-14 seasons were vacated).
-Southern Miss has led at the half in 24 of 26 home games since the start of the 2017-18 season.
-The Golden Eagles went 12-for-23 from beyond the arc, making it 7-0 when recording double-digit triples.
-The team's 12 steals matched a season-high, previously set versus North Florida on Nov. 20 in Cancun.
-LaDavius Draine scored a career-high 24 points. His seven three-pointers (nine attempts) were the most by a Golden Eagle since Kevin Holland (7-for-7) versus UTSA on Jan. 6, 2018.
-Sixteen of Draine's 19 double-figure scoring games in his career have come against C-USA opponents.
-Cortez Edwards' seven points gives him 1,338 for his career, good for No. 19 in school history (passed John White, 1984-88).
-Tyree Griffin’s eight assists (377 for his career) moved him past Kenny Smith (1976-80) for No. 8 all-time.