HATTIESBURG, Miss. _ For the better part of the first 10 minutes of the second half, the University of Southern Mississippi scrambled its way atop the scoreboard at Reed Green Coliseum to take the lead against visiting Old Dominion University.
Then, within what seemed like the snap of the fingers, the rally withered and then went.
The Monarchs went on a 17-0 run that led to an eventual 68-58 Conference USA victory before an announced 2,889.
The Golden Eagles (6-16, 2-7 C-USA) suffered through a 7-minute, 19-second scoring drought.
“We had expended a lot of energy at that point and we were not quite able to sustain that,” USM coach Jay Ladner said. “Those first 10 or 11 minutes of the second half, I thought we played very well.”
After trailing by as many as 15 points in the first half, the Golden Eagles had cut their deficit to 10 at halftime, going into the locker room down 33-23.
ODU (9-14, 5-4) made seven of its 10 3-pointers in the opening half to put USM on its heels early.
The Golden Eagles came out pressing and got back in the game with an 8-1 surge on an Auston Leslie slam dunk and two LaDavius Draine 3-pointers that cut the deficit to 34-31.
“(Coach Ladner), he wanted us to come out and out more pressure on the ball,” said USM forward Tyler Stevenson, who posted his third double-double of the season with 18 points and 10 rebounds.
“When we did, they started turning the ball over.”
ODU’s first field goal didn’t come until the 15:19 mark on Aaron Carver’s jumper, but the Monarchs rebuilt the lead to seven points, 40-33, on Kalu Ezikpe’s putback.
Draine’s jumper and two free throws from Tyler Stevenson got USM back within 40-37, and after a jumper by Ezikpe, Draine made another 3-pointer to make the score 42-40.
A turnover led to a layup by Curry, but Draine sank three free throws to cut the lead to one point, 44-43.
Another Curry layup pushed ODU back ahead by three points before Stevenson hit a pair of short jumpers and USM had its first lead since the opening minutes, 47-46.
But the rally took a toll on a team that saw four players play at least 36 minutes as only seven USM players saw playing time. Gabe Watson played all 40 minutes at point guard.
“Our guys are fighting hard, but (we’re with) a short bench, obviously,” Ladner said. “It’s just where we are right now. Our guys are going to have to be iron men.
USM lost starting point guard Jay Malone and reserve guard David McCoy to academic suspension.
“I don’t believe that it will be possible for them to come back during the spring,” Ladner said. “I do hope they’ll get serious and adapt and change their attitude about their academics, get serious about t, and hopefully, they’ll be able to come back in good graces next year.”
Malone’s loss has forced Watson to slide from shooting guard to the point.
“It’s affected him,” Ladner said of Watson. “No question.”
ODU quickly regained the lead on a pair of 3-pointers from guard A.J. Oliver, sparking the game’s decisive run.
“(Oliver) hit those threes, and then they started getting the ball inside, getting fouls,” Draine said.
Draine’s 3-pointer ended the scoreless streak, but less than two minutes remained in the game.
Draine, who hit five 3-pointers, finished with a game-high 22 points, and added five rebounds and three assists.
Forward Leonard Harper-Baker gave USM 10 points, nine rebounds and six assists. Watson had five points to go with four rebounds and five assists.
Curry finished with 18 points for ODU, while Curry added 17 points and six rebounds. Guard Xavier Green had eight points, seven rebounds and six assists.
USM will host the University of North Carolina-Charlotte (12-8, 6-3) at 2 p.m. Saturday at Reed Green Coliseum. The 49ers are 10-1 at home, 2-7 on the road.