BOWLING GREEN, KY (WLBT) - It was a classic, 40-minute clash inside E.A. Diddle Arena on Sunday afternoon, but WKU got the final breaks and shots it needed to come away with a 76-71 win over Southern Miss.
"When you go on the road, it's hard to win giving up 76 points," head coach Doc Sadler said. "We competed hard. I couldn't be more proud of the effort. Defensively, we got back to giving up lane drives and some open shots. Our guys need to understand that direct-line drives become open jump shots. The bottom line is that we competed and played as hard as we could. We were within one point and driving the basketball."
Dominic Magee, whose 12 points put him in double-figures for the first time since Dec. 15 at Wichita State, drove in traffic to hit a layup with 40 seconds left, cutting it to 72-71. WKU's Jared Savage made a corner three with 14 seconds left to up the advantage back to 75-71 and essentially put the game on ice.
WKU (18-12, 11-6 C-USA) had taken its largest lead of the day at 58-50 with 12:26 left, but Leonard Harper-Baker swooped in one a fastbreak to block a layup with 12:03 left. From there, Southern Miss went on an 11-3 run to tie it with 7:08 left. Gabe Watson made two free-throws at 4:21 to get his team within one, but Southern Miss never regained the lead from there.
The Golden Eagles battled from a pair of six-point deficits to take a 39-37 advantage at the half, its eighth-straight game leading at the break.
"For us to win these close basketball games, now and in the tournament, we are going to have to take care of the ball," Sadler said. "We can't make simple mistakes on the defensive end. We gave up an open layup on an out-of-bounds pass for maybe the first time all year. Points are too hard to get to do things like that."
Southern Miss (17-11, 9-7 C-USA) will remain on the road as it prepares to play C-USA regular-season champion Old Dominion on Wednesday at 6 p.m. CT.
-Tyree Griffin (21 points, nine assists) nearly had his fifth double-double. It was his 14th-career, 20-point game. He is now three dimes away from catching Mel Cauthen (399 from 1997-01) for No. 4 on the school's all-time assists list.
-Southern Miss (9-for-18) fell to 3-1 when shooting 50 percent or better from deep.
-WKU was held to just one assist and seven turnovers in the first half.
-The Golden Eagles held Charles Bassey, one of the top freshmen in Division I, to nine points and seven rebounds. It was the first time in 13 games he was contained to single-digits in each category in the same game.
-LaDavius Draine scored 16 points, his 21st-career game in double-digits. Eighteen of those have been in C-USA play.
-Cortez Edwards needs three steals to tie Curtis Green's (1980-84) school record of 193.
-Southern Miss outscored WKU 36-7 off the bench.