MIAMI, FL - A run by Florida International University at the start of the second half left the University of Southern Mississippi in a double-digit hole Thursday night, and poor free-throw shooting hurt the Golden Eagles down the stretch in a 76-70 loss to the Panthers
USM (11-12, 4-6 Conference USA) fell to 1-9 on the road this season, with all six of its conference losses coming away from Reed Green Coliseum. FIU (10-13, 4-6) snapped a two-game losing streak.
The Golden Eagles trailed 31-28 at halftime after a see-saw first half. FIU junior guard Eric Lockett scored the Panthers' final six points of the half as FIU grabbed the lead for good.
FIU opened the second half with a 12-2 run to take its largest lead of the game, 43-30. USM got within two points twice, the last coming with 12:08 to play on a tip-in by junior guard Anfernee Hampton.
But the Panthers rebuilt the lead to 10 points, 55-45, and the Golden Eagles could get no closer than six points again.
FIU outscored USM by 17 points from the free-throw line, hitting 21-of-35 free throws to the Golden Eagles' 4-of-11.
But the Panthers' also left the door open at the free-throw line.
Starting at the 2:20 mark, FIU missed 3-of-4 free throws that would have pushed a five-point lead to eight points with two minutes to play.
Immediately after, USM twice stepped to the line with a chance to whittle its deficit to four points, but junior guards Tyree Griffin and Cortez Edwards each missed a pair of free throws as FIU made enough foul shots to hold off the Golden Eagles in the end.
Griffin posted a double-double with 17 points and 11 assists to go with five rebounds. Edwards had 17 points and six rebounds, while junior guard Dominic Magee and freshman guard LaDavius Draine each scored 11 points.
Magee pulled down a game-high nine rebounds, while Draine grabbed five.
Junior FIU guard Brian Beard Jr. scored a game-high 23 points, had seven rebounds and handed out seven assists to lead the Panthers.
Junior forward Michael Douglas scored 15 points, sophomore guard Trejon Jacob had 11 points and eight rebounds and sophomore forward Osasumwen Osaghe added 10 points.
USM will wrap up a three-game road trip when it visits Florida Atlantic University at 6 p.m. Saturday in Boca Raton, Fla.