HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - With 15.2 seconds left and the shot clock winding down Thursday night in the Conference USA basketball game between the University of Southern Mississippi and University of Texas-San Antonio, Khari Price stepped back dropped in a 3-pointer.
The shot not only served as exclamation point on the Golden Eagles' 77-59 victory over Roadrunners at Green Coliseum, but also an oh-so-appropriate ending to Price's return to play.
After missing USM's first 13 games while recovering from preseason knee surgery, the senior point guard scored a career-high 20 points in his 2016-17 debut to help the Golden Eagles snap a nine-game losing streak.
"I'm just glad we got a win," said Price, who also had five rebounds and three assists in his 31 minutes. "Individually, I played well, but at the end of the day, this is a team sport, and I just wanted to come back and help us get a win."
Mission accomplished, as the Golden Eagles (4-10, 1-1 C-USA), won for the first time since defeating Alabama A&M on Nov. 21.
"Huge," USM coach Doc Sadler said. "I can't tell you how big (the win) was."
USM senior forward Quinton Campbell also scored 20 points, while sophomore guard Cortez Edwards posted the first double-double of his collegiate career with 13 points and 13 rebounds.
UTSA (6-9, 1-1), which saw a three-game winning streak snapped, got 19 points from freshman point guard Giovanni De Nicolao, while freshman swingman Byron Frohnen added 12 points and eight rebounds. The Roadrunners' leading scorer, junior forward Jeff Beverly, added 11 points.
De Nicolao scored 16 points in the first half to help the Roadrunners to a 39-33 halftime lead. The 6-foot-3 freshman point guard hit six of his first seven shots, including all four of his 3-point attempts, as UTSA led by as many as 10 points in the first half.
But after shooting 53.1 percent from the floor in the first half, UTSA went ice-cold against a zone defense employed by the Golden Eagles in the second half.
The Roadrunners shot just 21.4 percent from the floor, making just six baskets in the final 20 minutes. UTSA missed all 11 of its 3-points after the break and committed eight of its 13 turnovers after halftime.
"We felt like they scored too many points in the first half," Edwards said. "And we just wanted to lock in on defense."
Despite employing four guards for most of the second half, the zone also left the Golden Eagles in better rebounding position.
UTSA came into the game as C-USA's best-rebounding ballclub, averaging 40.7 boards a game, including 13.1 offensive rebounds per game.
On Thursday night, the Golden Eagles out-rebounded the taller Roadrunners 36-33 and limited UTSA to nine offensive rebounds.
The smaller lineup also allowed USM to create off the dribble, driving the ball to the basket instead of settling for jump shots.
"That opened the floor, and we took advantage, driving the lane and things like that," Price said.
USM still trailed by eight points early in the second half before ripping off a 15-0 run that lifted the Golden Eagles from a 45-37 deficit to 52-45 lead.
Edwards had eight points in the decisive spurt.
USM will wrap up its three-game homestand at 4 p.m. Saturday when it welcomes the University of Texas-El Paso to Green Coliseum. The first 1,000 fans will receive free rally towels.