HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - Prior to the 2019-20 season, Southern Miss basketball was predicted to finish 14th in the Conference USA among a panel of the league’s head coaches.
The Golden Eagles (9-18, 5-9 C-USA) sit in 11th place as they enter “Pod Play” this weekend. USM hosts Middle Tennessee on Saturday at noon in the first of four games to end the regular season.
Coach Jay Ladner and company hope to among the top 12 C-USA teams that receive an invite to the conference tournament in Frisco, Texas.
USM dropped four of its five games at the start of February but have since won two straight. A key reason for the Eagles’ turnaround has been their defense and rebounding. Southern Miss ranks eight in the C-USA in defensive field goal percentage (43.5 percent) and ninth in rebounding (35.2 per game).
“Even though our record to begin the season wasn’t the most sexy record in the world, we continued just to focus every day,” Ladner said. “We didn’t really work on that or talk about that that much. What we talked about was let’s come ready to practice, let’s be the best that we can, let’s correct this or correct that mistake. We’re beginning to see the fruits of our labor, so to speak. I’ve been coaching for 29 years. This team has faced a lot of adversity and I don’t know if I’ve ever been as proud of a group of young men than I have been of this particular team.”
Southern Miss’ final stretch of games begins on Saturday at Reed-Green Coliseum. Here’s a look at the Eagles’ remaining schedule:
- Saturday, (12 p.m.) - Southern Miss vs. Middle Tennessee
- Sunday, March 1 (3 p.m.) - Southern Miss at UTEP
- Wednesday, March 4 (7 p.m.) - Southern Miss vs. Rice
- Saturday, March 7 (5 p.m.) - Southern Miss at Middle Tennessee