HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) _ For the second time in three days, the University of Southern Mississippi saw a Conference USA men’s basketball contest come down to the final minute.
And, for the second time in three games, the Golden Eagles came through down the stretch.
After watching Florida International University trim a 12-point deficit to three with 39 seconds to play, USM scored the game’s final five points to preserve a 75-67 victory Saturday afternoon at Reed Green Coliseum on Senior Day.
The Golden Eagles (9-18, 5-9 C-USA) won their second consecutive game and improved to 5-4 over their past nine.
Trailing 11-4 out of the gate, USM used a 19-0 run to take the lead for good.
The stretch featured five 3-point baskets, including a pair each by junior wing LaDavious Draine and sophomore forward Artur Konontsuk. Senior forward Boban Jacdonmi had two baskets in the run.
USM led by seven points, 31-24, at halftime.
The Golden Eagles were up 12 points with 4 minutes, 13 seconds, to play in the game. Draine, who 4-of-7 shots from 3-point range, hit a pair 3-pointers and Konontsuk slipped in a layup in an 8-0 spurt that left USM up 64-52.
But the Panthers (17-10, 8-6) used a 15-6 run to pull back within three points, getting to 70-67 on a 3-pointer by sophomore guard Antonio Daye Jr.
Those were the Panthers’ final points.
Senior forward Leonard Harper-Baker dropped in 1-of-2 free throws, sophomore forward Tyler Stevenson added two more and then scored on a steal and layin to clinch the win.
Stevenson scored 22 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to post his fifth double-double of the season and also had two steals. Sophomore guard Gabe Watson also had a double-double with 14 points and a career-high 11 assists and pulled down eight rebounds.
Draine, who hit 6-of-10 shots, scored 19 points to go with five rebounds and four assists. Konontsuk added 10 points and six rebounds.
The Golden Eagles overcame 22 turnovers, in part, by shooting well. USM made 54.9 percent of its field-goal attempts in the game, including hitting at a 66.7 percent clip in the second half.
Led by Watson, USM dished out an assist on 23 of its 28 baskets.
USM outrebounded FIU 41-26, helped, in part, by the loss of FIU 6-foot-9 center Osasumwen Osaghe to an ankle injury in the first minute of the game.
FIU played in spurts. The Panthers shot just 39.7 percent from the floor, including 12-of-39 (30.8 percent) from 3-point range. FIU also committed 17 turnovers.
Senior forward Devin Andrews led FIU with 24 points and seven rebounds. Daye Jr. added 21 points and three assists, while senior guard Trejon Jacob had 11 points, four rebounds and three assists.
USM now awaits word on the final four games of its schedule in “pod play.”
Pod play will have USM playing four games over a two-week period, with two games at home and two on the road. The Golden Eagles will find out opponents and sites Sunday.