FRISCO, TX (WLBT) - If the clocks were turned back to fall, and many schools’ basketball fans were told they were going to have 20 wins and a tie game with eight minutes left in their conference tournament semifinals, they would have taken it.
That case is a special one for Southern Miss, which while still under scholarship limitations through the 2019-20 season, fought against all odds to earn a No. 3 seed in the C-USA Tournament. The squad withstood Marshall's vaunted offensive attack in an 82-73 win in the quarterfinals, but WKU proved to be too much in a 70-59 defeat on Friday afternoon.
Southern Miss head coach Doc Sadler stayed the course and has taken the Golden Eagles through a perfect upward trend in conference wins through the last five years (3-5-6-7-11). Only Florida A&M and Saint Louis can say the same in Division I basketball.
The Black and Gold did at least see some nice individual success when Tyree Griffin, in the opening minutes, passed Dallas Dale (1991-92) for sole possession of the school's single-season record for assists, now at 226. In just two years at the school, he holds the No. 3 spot in the career records (427).
Western Kentucky (20-13, 11-7 C-USA) utilized a 14-3 run to build a 61-51 lead with 1:36 remaining. The Hilltoppers only made four three-pointers all day, but two came during that spurt.
“The things that we take pride in is not turning the basketball over and taking care of the paint, and that’s something we didn’t do today," Sadler said. "When you play in big ball games, that’s something you have to do. Give them credit, they got a heck of a basketball team. They cause a lot of problems with their size and athleticism."
The Golden Eagles, whose largest lead was 12-5 in the early going, were up 42-36 with 14:47 left, but WKU went on an 8-0 run over the next 2:47 to put the game back up for grabs.
Cortez Edwards' jumper at the halftime buzzer not only marked the 12th-straight game the squad led at the break, but also gave Southern Miss its first advantage since the six-minute mark. The Golden Eagles out-shot the Hilltoppers 48-35 percent in the period.
-This marked the Golden Eagles' seventh 20-win season since 2001.
-Cortez Edwards' 10 points moved him past Kelly McCarty (1994-98) for No. 17 in school history, now with 1,394.
-Edwards moved within three steals of matching his single-season school record of 71, set last season. Tyree Griffin's 64 puts him in a tie for third and giving the duo four of the top-five years in school history for that category.
-Southern Miss' 11 three-pointers on 27 attempts marked the 10th time its recorded double-digits this season (third consecutive game).
-LaDavius Draine hit two three-pointers to surpass LaShay Page (2011-12) for No. 6 in single-season school history with 77.