For the second time this season, the Southern Miss men’s basketball team found a way to win at home in the final seconds of the game.
Power forward Victor Iwuakor made a short two-point shot in the paint with 2.9 seconds left for the Golden Eagles (11-8, 5-2) to secure a much-needed 64-63 win over Troy (11-8, 5-2). The Trojans went into the game leading the Sun Belt standings.
How it happened
Despite jumping out to a quick lead in the opening two minutes, Southern Miss was behind virtually the whole game. In the first half, the Golden Eagles kept within single digits and shot 7-11 from beyond the arc (63.6%).
Trailing 27-19 with eight minutes left, guard Cobie Montgomery knocked down his first three-point basket before drilling two more, which led to a 15-6 run before the end of the half and took Southern Miss into the locker room down one.
Coming back out of the gates, the Trojans went on a 22-5 run with 13:22 left in the game before Southern Miss guard Donovan Ivory took control back as the Golden Eagles slowly came back. Once Picayune native Mo Arnold made a three-point basket with 6:16 left and pulled Southern Miss within three, Reed Green Coliseum became electric.
Both teams turned the ball over a few times or took errant shots, but Trojan guard Christyon Eugene made a free throw with under two minutes to give Troy a 63-60 lead. That’s when Preseason Sun Belt Player of the Year Austin Crowley answered on a quick scoring jumper to cut the lead to 63-62.
After a Troy turnover and a Southern Miss missed jumper, the Trojans missed a layup where Crowley drove the court to dump his pass in the paint to Iwuakor, sealing the victory.
What the coach said
“Kind of like the other night (with a 69-66 victory over Arkansas State), it was kind of hard to come off the floor after a game like that,” Southern Miss head coach Jay Ladner said. “We have an incredibly tough group, resilient, and I said it after the Arkansas State game, that’s what USM President Dr. Joe Paul meant when he spoke of ‘Southern Miss Grit.’”
When discussing the environment, Ladner expressed, “Another example today of one of the hardest places to play in the United States, people from all over South Mississippi come out to these games and yell their lungs out. It had a lot to do with us winning.”
The numbers don’t lie
Southern Miss had one of their best three-point shooting performances of the year, finishing 10 of 21 for 48%, but their most effective statistics were rebounding and blocked shots. The Golden Eagles outrebounded the Trojans 33-32 while swatting four shots in comparison to Troy’s zero blocks.
The Golden Eagles won with minimal help from the bench, having only four points from non-starters compared to 19 from the Trojans. Southern Miss’ win was the 13th at home since joining the Sun Belt as it has yet to lose a home conference game.
Iwuakor finished the game with 11 points, eight rebounds, and three blocks. The 6-foot-8 forward has swatted 20 shots in his last six games. Crowley’s assist on the final basket was his fifth of the game as the West Point native also added 11 points and two rebounds.
Ivory led the offensive charge with 20 points on 7 of 13 shooting from the floor. Montgomery went three for four from deep and finished with 13 points. As a team, Southern Miss shot 23 for 51 from the floor and held Troy to 63 points seven days after the Trojans put up 82 on them.
The Golden Eagles now head into a four-game road stretch, starting next Wednesday at the HTC Center in Conway, S.C. against Coastal Carolina. The game is scheduled for 5 p.m. CT.
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