Southern Miss Men’s Basketball seeks first-ever Sun Belt Conference win

(AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
(AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)(Mark Humphrey | AP)
Published: Dec. 29, 2022 at 4:13 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Southern Miss Men’s Basketball will seek its first-ever Sun Belt Conference win against the Troy Trojans Thursday night after officially joining the conference in July.

Before conference play, under fourth-year head coach and USM Alumni Jay Ladner, the Golden Eagles exploded into an 11-2 record on the hardwood to begin the 2022-2023 season.

After finishing last season with a 7-26 record, Southern Miss was predicted to finish last in their first year competing in the Sun Belt. Now, after a total U-turn of the program, the Golden Eagles have soared into conversations of being a conference title contender before their first-ever Sun Belt Conference game, thanks to good road wins against Vanderbilt and Liberty.

“[One] of the easiest motivational opportunities that coaches have is when it’s you against the world, when nobody thinks you have a chance to do anything. And, of course, that’s what created the ‘14′ mentality,” said Coach Ladner, referring to the preseason rankings and warm-up tops his players have worn in previous games. “Everybody thinks we’re the worst team in the league. Now, people are saying that ‘they’re one of the favorites to win the league.’ So, what we have to do is have blinders on, ear muffs on, and we just need to focus on doing our job every day.”

The impressive start to the season doesn’t matter now, with a change in mentality needed with conference play on the horizon.

“What we focused on the last week is that nonconference play is over with. We’re 11-2. But really, it wouldn’t matter if we were 0-13 or 2-11 because we’re 0-0 where it counts.” Coach Ladner said talking about the importance of conference play. “What’s gonna happen over these next nine weeks and 18 games is what’s really gonna dictate our future.”

A Southern Miss win will not come easy though as the team will face a tough, physical Troy Trojans squad that has an impressive win against a Power 5 opponent and taking a top 10 team in the country to the final whistle.

“I have great respect for our entire league and have been incredibly impressed... Troy is one of those teams that has been very impressive,” Coach Ladner said. “They beat Florida State on the road and took Arkansas to the wire at Arkansas, who are in the top 10. They’re physical and talented. Scott Cross is, in my opinion, one of the best coaches in the country.

“They have all the boxes checked,” he continued. “For us to be successful, we have to do a good job of taking care of the basketball, rebounding the ball, and taking the shots we want offensively and be tuned in defensively.”

Southern Miss will put their home undefeated record on the line against Troy Thursday night at Reed Green Coliseum in search of their first-ever Sun Belt victory. Coach Ladner has a message for Southern Miss fans.

The contest is set to start at 7 p.m. on ESPN Plus.

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