For second consecutive basketball game, the University of Southern Mississippi had five players score 10 points or more Saturday evening, including two who posted double-doubles in the same game for the second time this season.
And still, the Golden Eagles found themselves glancing at the clock nearly as much as the scoreboard, as USM held off the University of Texas-San Antonio 93-83 before 1,834 at Reed Green Coliseum.
Despite building leads of 15 points in the first half and 17 in the second, USM had to withstand a barrage from beyond the arc from the Roadrunners, who tossed up 44 long shots, knocking down 13, including nine in the second half.
While USM never could comfortably pull away from UTSA, USM was able to knock down 29-of-35 free throws, including 19-of-22 attempts in the final 2 minutes, 16 seconds of the game to keep the Roadrunners at bay.
“They are a hard team to play against,” USM coach Doc Sadler said. “They just keep coming at you and at you.
“But as I told the team, I really believe in this team, and they did what they’re supposed to do, and that’s win at home.”
In fact, USM (9-8, 2-2 Conference USA) remained unbeaten in seven games at Green Coliseum this season, including consecutive conference wins in which the Golden Eagles scored 85 points or more.
USM knocked off visiting University of Texas-El Paso 85-75 Thursday night.
“Every home game is a must-win from now on,” said junior guard Kevin Holland, who turned in a career game with 23 points after a perfect performance from the field (8-of-8) and 3-point range (7-of-7).
“Last year, we won a lot of Thursday games, but struggled on Saturdays, so our mentality was we have to get these Saturday games, too. That was our goal.”
But it wasn’t easy.
UTSA freshman guard Jhivvan Jackson scored a career-high 30 points, making 11-of-24 shots, including 4-of-14 from 3-point range. Junior guard Deon Lyle knocked down 7-of-13 shots from beyond 3-point range to score 21 points.
All told, the Roadrunners (9-8, 2-2) made 13-of-44 treys, breaking the Green Coliseum record for 3-pointers attempted, 41 by Blue Mountain College in 2007.
“We knew they shot a lot of threes, so we were kind of expecting it, but no, not 44,” USM junior guard Coretz Edwards said. “Most of those guys were taking shots we wouldn’t have even thought about taking, so it kind of surprised us at first, but then we kind of guarded against it.”
And USM did more than enough, offensively, to stay at least one step ahead of UTSA all night.
Holland’s eight field goals and seven made 3-pointers were both career highs. He joined Marcus Crowell’s perfect shooting game (10-of-10; vs. University of Louisiana-Lafayette; Jan. 20, 1990) as the only Golden Eagles to make every shot in a game with at least eight shots attempted. Holland matched Neil Watson’s 7-of-7 effort from beyond the arc in 2013 against East Carolina University
Edwards and fellow junior guard Dominic Magee grabbed 10 rebounds apiece, with the former scoring 20 points, the latter, 18. The duo matched the double-doubles they collected against William Carey University on Dec. 16.
Edwards also finished with three assists and four steals, while Magee hit 9-of-12 free throws and added five assists
Senior guard D’Angelo Richardson finished with 12 points, with 10 coming from the free-throw line (10-of-10) in the final 2:07 of the game
Junior guard Tyree Griffin scored 16 points, including an 8-of-1 effort from the foul line. Griffin also had a game –high six assists.
USM set the pace early, using an early 17-2 run to take a 19-4 lead with 12:12 left in the first half. Edwards, who scored 12 points in the first half, had six in the stretch, and Griffin added a pair of 3-pointers.
The Roadrunners rallied, twice drawing within three points, the second coming on a Jackson drive to cut USM’s lead to 30-27.
But Holland’s two 3-pointers fueled an 8-0 spurt by USM to close the half and give the Golden Eagles a 40-29 lead at the break.
The second half was more of the same, with USM building muscular leads, only to see UTSA come scrapping back.
USM led 63-46 on a _ what else? _ a Holland 3-pointer, and led by 15 points, 72-57, with 5:25 to go.
But the Roadrunners whittled the deficit to nine points on a 3-pointer by Giovanni DiNicoloa with 2:16, starting USM’s parade to the free throw line as UTSA swapped fouls for 3-point attempts over the final 2:16 of the game.
UTSA got within eight points three times in the final 2:09, but USM missed just three free throws down the stretch.
The Golden Eagles will visit the University of Alabama-Birmingham at 7 p.m. Thursday at Bartow Arena.