USM downs Herd, 82-73, to reach C-USA semis

Griffin scores 23, ties USM single-season assist mark, to pace Golden Eagles

USM downs Herd, 82-73, to reach C-USA semis

FRISCO, Texas _ It was not necessarily the whirlwind performance that the University of Southern Mississippi laid on Marshall University when the teams met in regular-season Conference USA play.

But the Golden Eagles certainly were more than happy with the outcome in the Thursday night quarterfinals of the 2019 Conference USA Men’s Basketball Championships.

Senior guard Dominic Magee and sophomore swingman LaDavius Draine combined for 32 points and 11 rebounds off the USM bench as the Golden Eagles got past Marshall 82-73.

The third-seeded Golden Eagles (20-11) reached the 20-win plateau for the first time in Coach Doc Sadler’s five-year tenure.

USM made the semifinal round of C-USA’s tournament for a second consecutive postseason by eliminating the team that knocked them from the field in 2018.

The Golden Eagles, who won for the ninth time in the past 11 games, will face the second-seeded University of Western Kentucky (19-13) at 3 p.m. Friday.

The Hilltoppers swept USM during the regular-season in a pair of close games in Hattiesburg and Bowling Green, Ky.

Thursday night, USM senior point guard Tyree Griffin led the Golden Eagles’ charge against Marshall with 23 points and four rebounds. His eight assists against the Herd gave him 222 on the season, tying the single-season record set by Dallas Dale in 1992.

Draine, who made 6-of-8 shots from 3-point range and 7-of-10 shots from the floor, finished with 20 points and four rebounds.

Junior forward Leonard Harper-Baker added 16 points, a game-high nine rebounds and five assists, while Magee added 12 points and seven rebounds.

Marshall (19-14), which had lost 101-51 at Reed Green Coliseum in Hattiesburg on Jan. 26, made things much more interesting Thursday night.

Marshall trailed 42-38 at halftime, but led 64-61 with 8:06 to play in the game after senior guard C.J. Burks’ three-point play.

But USM forced three turnovers on Marshall’s next five possessions, Harper-Baker tied the game on a layup, 65-65, before Draine drilled a 3-pointer to give USM a 68-65 lead with 4:29 to play.

Draine’s trey with a 1:15 to play was another dagger that capped a 16-7 USM run and left the Golden Eagles up 79-71.

USM shot 53.8 percent from the floor, 52.6 percent from 3-point range, and the Golden Eagles beat the Herd on the boards, 39-20. But Marshall stayed in the game by hitting 17 3-pointers.

Sophomore forward Jannson Williams scored 22 points for Marshall, hitting 6-of-12 shots beyond the 3-point line. Senior guard Jon Elmore finished with 18 points, 11 assists, eight rebounds and three steals.

Freshman guard Taevion Kinsey had 16 points, hitting 4-of-4 from 3-point range, while Burks added 10 points.

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