FRISCO, Texas (WDAM) - The University of Southern Mississippi's deepest postseason basketball run in five years came to an end Friday.
The ninth-seeded Golden Eagles got a career-high 30 points from junior guard Cortez Edwards, but it was not enough as they fell 85-75 to fourth-seeded Marshall University in the semifinals of the 2018 Conference USA Men's Basketball Tournament at Ford Center.
Marshall (23-10), which had five players score at least 12 points, built a 24-point lead early in the second half and then held off USM (16-18) at the free-throw line late.
The Thundering Herd moved into Saturday's 7:30 p.m. championship game, where it will meet the winner of Friday's other semifinal between second-seeded Old Dominion University and third-seeded Western Kentucky University.
USM may have seen its season come to an end Friday, but the Golden Eagles may have opened some eyes with a three-game run that was longest for the program since reaching the title game of the 2013 C-USA tournament.
Edwards was the main catalyst for a showing that included a 69-68 win over eighth-seeded Florida International University in Wednesday's opening round and a 71-68 overtime upset of top-seeded Middle Tennessee State University in Thursday's quarterfinals.
Including Friday's outburst, Edwards averaged 27.3 points in this week. He became the first Golden Eagle with a 30-point game since Kourtlin Jackson went for 40 points in the final game of the 2015-16 season, a 108-106 overtime loss at Marshall.
Edwards, who made 12-of-19 shots from the field Friday, also grabbed eight rebounds, handed out two assists, blocked a shot and came up with a steal.
USM junior point guard Tyree Griffin added 19 points and eight assists, while junior guard Dominic Magee added eight points and eight rebounds.
After Thursday's emotional win over C-USA's best team, the Golden Eagles fell behind by 20 points at halftime against the Herd, and with 12:1- left in the game, trailed 64-40.
Then USM began tearing into the lead, and with Edwards scoring seven points in a late 11-0 run, the Golden Eagles pulled within 71-65 on a layup by junior guard Kevin Holland with 3:02 to go.
But senior guard Ot Elmore, who led Marshall with 27 points, nine rebounds and nine assists, hit a dagger of a 3-pointer to push the Herd's lead back to nine points with 2:32 to play and Marshall made 11-of-12 foul shots down the stretch to hold off the Golden Eagles.
Freshman forward Jannason Williams added 17 points and five rebounds for Marshall, while junior guard C.J. Burks had 13 points, six rebounds and six assists. Junior forward Ajdin Penava and freshman guard Jarrod West scored 12 points each.