USM comes up empty down the stretch, falls to MTSU

USM comes up empty down the stretch, falls to MTSU
Bryant Bowen was the hero on this night with his walk-off single, giving the Golden Eagles a 9-8 victory over Louisiana-Lafayette. (Photo source: USM)

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The University of Southern Mississippi men's basketball team has hit its share of offensive dry spells during the 2017-18 season.

But Thursday night's stretch of emptiness at Reed Green Coliseum might have been the toughest to take.

For more than 42 minutes, the Golden Eagles stood toe-to-toe with Conference USA-leading Middle Tennessee State, and when freshman guard LaDavius Draine drained a high-arching 3-pointer from the left elbow with the shot clock winding down, USM found itself knotted with the Blue Raiders 62-62 with 7:14 to play in the game.

As it turned out, those were the Golden Eagles' final points of the evening.

MTSU scored the game's final 10 points, clawing its way past USM 72-62 in an intense, physical contest that rocked back and forth for the better of the game.

But in the end, the Blue Raiders (21-5, 13-1 C-USA) picked up their eighth consecutive victory while handing USM (13-14, 6-8) only its second home loss of the season.

Junior point guard Tyree Griffin was held scoreless for the first time as a Golden Eagle, missing all six of his shots and being forced to the sideline with what appeared to be a banged up hip with 4:22 to play.

But Griffin handed out a game-nine assists and directed the Golden Eagles against MTSU's tough, trapping half-court zone defense.

Griffin did not join the team at midcourt for the usual postgame rendition of USM's alma mater, but walked off the court without a pronounced limp at game's end. He will be evaluated over the next 36 hours or so to determine whether he will be able to play against the University of Alabama-Birmingham who visits Green Coliseum at 4 p.m. Saturday.

In a first half that featured five lead changes and four ties, USM led by as many as nine points, only to see MTSU take a 37-36 lead into the break when senior guard Giddy Potts hit a 3-pointer from the deep left corner with 3.5 seconds left to play.

The see-saw continued in the second half, with five more ties and six more swapping of the lead.

But USM could not buy a basket after Draine's 3-pointer, and the Blue Raiders finished off a season sweep of the home-and-home series with the Golden Eagles.

Junior guard Cortez Edwards led USM with 15 points, six rebounds and five assists. Junior guard Dominic Magee had 12 points and nine rebounds.

MTSU senior forward Nick King wound up with 20 points and 11 rebounds and senior guard Giddy Potts and junior guard Antwain Johnson each scored 13 points. Sophomore point guard Tyrik Dixon had 12 points and four assists.

USM will wrap up a four-game homestand Saturday when they welcome they meet the Blazers for the second time this season. UAB took an 86-75 victory over USM on Jan. 11 at Bartow Arena in Birmingham, Ala.

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