HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Sunday, March 26 marked the 30th anniversary that Southern Miss basketball won the 1987 NIT Tournament.
The M.K. Turk-led Eagles finished the regular season 17-10. A loss in the Metro Conference Tournament set up a first-round NIT contest with in-state rival Ole Miss.
The Golden Eagles jumped all over the Rebels, winning 93-75 inside a lively Reed-Green Coliseum.
In the second round came a matchup with the Saint Louis Billikens on St. Patrick's Day. Perhaps there was a little Irish luck in John White's three-pointer that bounced high off the rim before dropping to seal USM's 83-78 overtime win.
"When John White hit a shot that looked like it was going over the backboard and it came back in," said Turk, who coached Southern Miss from 1976-96. "We felt after that we might be destined."
Wins over Vanderbilt and Nebraska advanced the Eagles to NIT championship in Madison Square Garden.
The fab four of Southern Miss, juniors Casey Fisher, Derrek Hamilton, White and tournament MVP Randolph Keys led the Golden Eagles as they shot 46 percent from three-point range and defeated La Salle 84-80.
Three years later, Turk led USM to its first-ever NCAA tournament berth. However, it was that 1987 NIT championship season that is talked about even 30 years later.
"Our program is not a household name," said Turk the NIT win. "I think it probably stirred more interest in Southern Miss athletics than anything that has happened before or since."