Press release from Southern Miss Athletics
HATTIESBURG, Miss. - On an evening that started with Southern Miss basketball coach Doc Sadler wondering if the ball ever was going to go in the basket ended with his Golden Eagles figuring out yet another way to win.
“Wow,” Sadler said postgame after watching USM win for the third time in its last five games, running away to a 71-58 Conference USA victory over UTEP before 2,824 at Green Coliseum.
Southern Miss (6-12, 3-4 C-USA) went scoreless for the first 6 ½ minutes of the game and trailed 17-3 halfway through the first half.
But the Golden Eagles hung tough defensively and on the boards and eventually found their collective shooting touch from the 3-point and foul lines.
Southern Miss matched season highs behind the arc (12 of 33) and made more free throws (23) than UTEP (11-10, 3-5) attempted.
“Once again, they didn’t quit,” Sadler said of a team that has gone 6-6 over its past dozen games after starting the season 0-6.
“(It’s) 17-3 and I’m sure a lot of people are wondering why they came,” said Sadler. “I was wondering why I was there. I mean, I wasn’t bringing much to the table at that point. But I’m glad that (guards) Mike Ramey and Rob (Thomas III) kind of got us going.”
Ramey and Thomas split four treys in the first half that helped thaw Southern Miss’s frosty shooting touch. After trailing 22-7 with 9:09 left in the half, the Golden Eagles outscored the Miners 19-8 down the stretch to close within 30-26 at halftime.
A trio of treys sparked a 13-6 Southern Miss run to open the second half, with Ramey’s 3-pointer giving the Golden Eagles their first lead of the game, 39-36, with 15:38 to play.
Forward Quinton Campbell hit another 3 to boost the lead to six points with 13:42 to play, but UTEP clawed back to grab a 43-42 lead on a 3-pointer and two free throws by guard Lee Moore.
But guard Kourtlin Jackson, one of five Golden Eagles to knock down a 3-pointer, put Southern Miss ahead with one, 45-43, and never trailed again.
The Golden Eagles used the free throw line to their advantage, knocking down 23 of 29 attempts for the game, including 16 of 19 in the second half.
Six of those free throws came on a trio of last-minute technical fouls against UTEP, including a quick pair on Coach Tim Floyd, who was ejected after slamming a greaseboard to the court.
Jackson led Southern Miss with 15 points, while Campbell had 13 points and a team-high nine rebounds and four assists. Thomas finished with 12 points and six rebounds, while point guard Khari Price scored 10 points, all from the free throw line, including all six technical freebies.
Ramey added nine points and forward Raheem Watts added eight, including two treys in Southern Miss’ run to open the second half.
UTEP, which has not won in Hattiesburg since 2010 and has lost all six of its road games this season, was led by Moore’s 18 points and nine rebounds. Guard Earvin Morris added 13.
The Miners shot just 40 percent from the floor, while the teams split 72 rebounds evenly between them.