HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - USM Press Release
At the end of a tough February, Southern Miss sent its seniors out in style Saturday night.
And the two Golden Eagles who were playing for the final time at Green Coliseum gave the 3,693 on hand something to remember them by.
Senior guard Kourtlin Jackson scored a game-high 27 points and senior forward Michael O’Donnell added a career-best 16 in the swan songs on their home court as the Golden Eagles ran away from North Texas 81-70.
“It was pretty emotional for both of us,” said O’Donnell, who put up the first points of the game by knocking down a long-range 3-pointer. “We both had our families out here, so we both wanted to come out here and get the win, play hard. We were able to come out here and get the job done.”
In the process, Southern Miss (8-19, 5-11 Conference USA) won for the first time in February, snapping a seven-game losing streak and avenging a 70-54 loss in Denton, Texas, on Feb. 4.
“It’s big,” said Jackson, who has led Southern Miss in scoring the past six games. “We were not going to lose (Saturday night). That was just not happening. It was not in our mindset to lose.”
Southern Miss coach Doc Sadler credited the win in large part to a defensive effort that forced 15 turnovers, including 12 steals, allowing the Golden Eagles to outscore the Mean Green 20-5 in points off turnovers.
“That’s the difference in the ballgame,” Sadler said. “The end score doesn’t show how good our defense was.”
North Texas (11-18, 6-10) was led by sophomore forward Jeremy Combs, who logged his 11th double-double in 16 conference games with 15 points and a game-high 14 rebounds.
Guard Ja’Michael Brown had 15 points as well, while guards J-Mychal Reese and Carrington Ward added 13 points each.
Jackson and O’Donnell were joined in double figures by guard Michael Ramey, who scored all 11 of his points in the first half. Swingman Quinton Campbell had nine points, a team-high eight rebounds and three assists while point guard Khari Price had seven points, six rebounds and a game-high eight assists.
The Golden Eagles never trailed in the game, and after leading by as many as 11 points in the first half, settled for a 35-30 halftime lead.
Southern Miss led by as many as 17 points in the second half. North Texas drew within nine, 71-62, on a 3-pointer by Brown with 1:04 to play, and twice had cut the deficit to eight, the last on a Ward layup with 46 seconds to play.
But Jackson made a pair of free throws and Campbell dropped in four more down the stretch to more than offset a 3-pointer by Allante Houston with five seconds to play.
Southern Miss will close its year with games at Western Kentucky and Marshall next week, and Sadler said he was looking forward to the final scenes of the 2016-16 basketball season.
“We haven’t won as many games as we would have liked, and we’re all disappointed with the record, no one more than me,” he said. “But I’m proud of the effort this team.
“This team’s been fun and we’ve got two more games left. I’m looking forward to see what we can do.”