HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) _ Junior swingman LaDavius Draine scored a career-high 28 points on near-record-setting shooting from beyond the 3-point arc as the University of Southern Mississippi walloped National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics’ foe Tougaloo College 96-77 Saturday afternoon at Reed Green Coliseum.
“We have played an incredibly-challenging schedule," USM coach Jay Ladner said. "It was important for our team to get a win over a good opponent, which entered 10-3.”
Draine, who had scored a season-high 21 points in the Golden Eagles’ last outing at Texas Tech University, hit 7-of-10 long-distance baskets, the sixth-most 3-pointers in a single game.
The barrage moved Draine into fifth place on USM’s career, 3-point list (140), just a trio of threes behind No. 4 Jimmie Floyd.
"He's as fine a young man as I've coached in my 29 years," Ladner said. "He does exactly what you tell him to do. He really struggled early in the year … (but) he never got down, came every day for extra shots, and I certainly never wanted to make an issue of it or question him and hurt his confidence.
“He shot better in the Bahamas, and (Saturday) he showed a lot of confidence each time he went up for one.”
USM shot 51.7 percent from the floor, the third time this season that the Golden Eagles made at least half their shots in a game. USM connected on 11, 3-pointers, tying the season-high sent against Gonzaga University.
After being held to less than 10 points for the first time in six games in his last outing, USM sophomore forward Tyler Stevenson scored 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting from the floor and going 5-of-6 from the free-throw line. He also grabbed nine rebounds.
USM sophomore guard Gabe Watson also scored 19 points, a single-point shy of his career-high and handed out a career-high eight assists.
Sophomore guard Jay Malone had a career night with 12 points and seven assists.
The Golden Eagles handed out 22 assists on 30 baskets Saturday.
USM also got nine points, 10 rebounds, three assists and three blocked shots from senior forward Leonard Harper-Baker and six points and seven rebounds from freshman center Hunter Dean.
USM (4-9) trailed 18-17 at 12:45 before producing a 28-9 run that separated them for good. Tougaloo got within 12 early in the second half, but the Golden Eagles led by as many as 29 points with 10 minutes left.
"The biggest takeaway is that I wanted our guys to experience success and the fruits of their labor in what's always a long season,” Ladner said. “Overall, I was proud of them and their improvement. We've won two of our last four with a couple of nail-biting losses. We have to take it day-to-day, and I was glad to get everyone in and through the holidays on a winning note."
Tougaloo (10-4) got a double-double from senior center Justin Johnson, who finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds.
Senior forward Ledarius Woods scored a team-high 21 points and grabbed three rebounds and senior guard Stanley Williams added 13 points, seven rebounds, two assists and two steals.
USM will open Conference USA play on Dec. 30, when the Golden Eagles welcome Louisiana Tech University to Reed Green Coliseum.