Southern Miss men, women basketball teams finish season at the top of the conference

Published 8:31 am Saturday, February 25, 2023

History in Hattiesburg! Both the Southern Miss Lady Eagles and Southern Miss Golden Eagles basketball teams have finished at the top of the Sun Belt Conference.

For the third time in Southern Miss’ Division I era, the Golden Eagles (25-6, 14-4 SBC) have won a regular season conference championship. With a 79-69 win at Texas State (13-18, 6-12 SBC) on Friday night, Southern Miss was crowned Sun Belt Regular Season Champions.

Earlier in the evening, Lady Eagle basketball powered past Louisiana in a 69-64 overtime victory in Lafayette to claim a share of the Sun Belt title. Southern Miss also collected the 800th win in program history and tied the all-time record for conference games in a season with 13.

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Felipe Haase delivered on the Golden Eagles’ big night as the graduate forward from Chile poured in 26 points and cashed in on four three-pointers. Southern Miss, though, wasn’t seeing rings all night long. Texas State jumped on the Golden Eagles early with the Black and Gold going nearly two minutes until they scored their first points.

Texas State never got ahead by more than five, but that was all the motivation Southern Miss would need. Neftali Alvarez and Haase each hit a three to give the Golden Eagles a short-lived lead, but it wasn’t until Austin Crowley threw down a dunk that Southern Miss took the lead for good.

For Crowley to get that dunk with 9:02 left in the first half, Mo Arnold picked a Bobcat pocket and allowed Alvarez to give a dime to Crowley for the flush. That gave Southern Miss a 21-20 lead and sparked a 10-0 run.

Denijay Harris, who picked up his second-career double-double, gave the Golden Eagles an 11-point lead after converting back-to-back layups. The lead then hit 12 after a Crowley triple with a minute left on the clock. Texas State answered, but Alvarez punched back with a nifty move under the basket to make it 41-29 at the break.

Alvarez led all first-half players with 13 points and helped Southern Miss to a 53.3 percent shooting clip. Crowley added 11 points and Haase had a quiet seven. Luckily for Southern Miss, it didn’t take long for him to be heard from in the second half.

With Texas State cutting the Golden Eagle advantage to six minutes prior, Haase delivered a huge three-pointer to push it back to an 11-point lead. He then hit back-to-back three-pointers 61-43 with just over 10 minutes to go.

That was the largest lead Southern Miss would have all day and the Bobcats never got back within single digits over the final 10 minutes. With time winding down, head coach Jay Ladner gave his starting five a proper ovation and emptied his bench.

As the seconds ticked down, the Golden Eagles closed in on history. A season after winning seven total games, Ladner brought his team to the top. Though the story isn’t done, the Golden Eagles are getting their rings at last.

Southern Miss will play in the 2023 Hercules Tires Sun Belt Men’s Basketball Championship on Saturday, March 4 at 11:30 a.m. Southern Miss will play the winner of South Alabama and App State. All games will be played at the Pensacola Bay Center in Pensacola, Fla.

Southern Miss (20-9, 13-5 Sun Belt) closed the regular season on a five-game winning streak thanks to an overtime thriller against Louisiana (16-14, 10-8 Sun Belt).

Louisiana claimed the first points of the game but Southern Miss stormed back using a 13-2 run. The Lady Eagles won the opening frame 17-8 thanks to Domonique Davis’ six points. The DeRidder, La. native finished the day with a game-high 24 points in front of a large showing of her family and friends.

Louisiana responded in the second quarter to make it a 31-26 margin at halftime. The Cajuns continued to make hay at the rim, starting the second half on a 10-2 run to take their largest lead of the day.

Southern Miss struggled to find offensive rhythm throughout the second half. Southern Miss managed just nine points in the third to UL’s 16. At the end of the third, the Ragin’ Cajuns led 42-40 with 10 minutes to go.

Louisiana’s offensive outburst was fueled by eight Lady Eagle turnovers in the third quarter.

The fourth quarter became a back-and-forth affair as Southern Miss and Louisiana wrestled the lead back and forth. The Black & Gold rode a 7-0 run into the final media timeout of the fourth quarter.

Southern Miss led at the final media, 52-49, before Louisiana quickly retook the lead under two minutes. Rose Warren drilled a long ball with 1:24 left in the game to take a two-point lead.

Louisiana tied it at 57-57 with 1:17 left in the game and the two teams finished the frame scoreless. UL bricked two free throws to end the game to send it into overtime.

Southern Miss played their third overtime in the same season for the first time since 2014-15 when the squad played four games through extra time.

The Lady Eagles rode out the Ragin’ Cajuns 12-7 in overtime as Davis swiped a steal with nine seconds left and connected on the other end to push the score to 69-65.

Southern Miss claims its first regular season conference title since 1993-94 and for only the third time in program history (1988-89, 1993-94 and 2022-23). Most notably, the win marked the 800th win in program history, dating back to 1975.

Melyia Grayson finished the day with a double-double, grabbing 10 boards and scoring 16 points, leading the game in rebounds.

Jacorriah Bracey, the hero of the last matchup against UL, poured on 10 to give Southern Miss three Lady Eagles in double-figures.

Southern Miss ends its season 20-9 and 13-5 in Sun Belt play, both high water marks for the first time since 2014-15. With the win, Southern Miss guaranteed itself a spot in the top four of the Sun Belt Conference and, with a little help from Tony Kemper and the Marshall Thundering Herd, Southern Miss secured the third-overall seed behind James Madison and Texas State.

The Lady Eagles next action comes after enjoying a double bye in Pensacola. Southern Miss makes its Sun Belt Conference Tournament debut on March 3 at 5 p.m. against the winner of the No. 6 seed vs. the winner of the No. 11 vs. No. 14 game.